Lightning

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.

Hit Me

It hit me hard, and unexpectedly.  Friday evening, I was getting ready for bed and thought to myself “Today, I am 14 weeks, 1 day pregnant.  Nelle was born at 21 weeks, 1 day.  So I am 2/3 of the way as far as my last pregnancy.”  Somehow, thinking those words hit me like a torrential wave.  I began sobbing, so hard that I had to sit down on the bathroom floor.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and I couldn’t stop.  I think I have been focusing so hard the past few weeks on mitigating the stress of this pregnancy that I have not allowed myself any moments to grieve.  But I sat on my floor, with as much pain as I felt in those first few hours and days after she was gone.  I thought how I never got to meet her, never got to know what she would be like.  I cried so hard that I eventually threw up.

The past few weeks have not been easy.  The nausea has subsided, but at 14 weeks I don’t feel movement yet, so I am back to the empty, wary feeling of “nothing.”  Hopefully I will start to feel movements soon.  I am apprehensive about the mid-pregnancy ultrasound, where we found out last time that something was wrong.  The swell of news around Zika virus terrified me for days until more information came out and I think now I have sufficiently calmed down.  Time creeps by.  Still so many weeks to go.

I tried to find some joy in memories.  My Timehop reminded me in January of when I first learned that I was pregnant with Theo.  I posted cryptic messages to Facebook, but now I look back and know what they meant.  Today’s post was “going to move out of the stinky kitchen” as I calculated I would have been probably about 7 weeks or so, and nausea was likely taking over.

And today marks a huge milestone – I celebrate 10 years with my employer today.  What a journey it has been.  When I first started, I was a newlywed and recent college graduate (only married 2 weeks prior and only graduating 6 weeks prior).

I think a long bath is calling my name tonight.

2016-02-01 Hit Me
It feels like spring is around the corner.

 

Nightmares

I suppose I should reflect on the lighter moment of my OB appointment last Friday.  I was so affected by the experience that I could only write about the traumatic part.  But my doctor said “Oh hey – you only gained 2 pounds since your last visit, and with the holidays in there, nicely done!”  To which I responded wryly “Yeah, well vomiting throughout most of the holiday season put a damper on eating much.”

I also had to take a depression screening survey at the beginning of the appointment.  I knew what the survey was looking for, and knew that if I gave truthful responses, it would likely set off some type of warning flag for them.  Questions like “Do you cry often?”  “Do you feel anxious?”  Well, yes, but with good reason.  So I debated lying on the survey, but finally decided to be truthful.  Sure enough, I “failed” the test, or earned too many points, or whatever.  I was like “Not to worry – I’m in therapy.”  At which point everyone settled down.

Quentin was a nightmare on Sunday at bedtime.  I don’t even know what started it, but it resulted in a full-out tantrum and him banging on his bedroom door to the point where I was concerned about damage to the door.  I finally told him that if he did not stop, I was going to take EVERY SINGLE STUFFED ANIMAL out of his room.  Clearly he didn’t believe me, because a few minutes later – that was exactly what I was doing – removing every one of his stuffed animals to the master bedroom.  That got his attention and he demanded them back.  I sat with him until he finally composed himself, and then told him that he could not have his animals back that night, but if he was well-behaved, he could have them back the next day.  He finally climbed into his bed and snuggled with his blanket.

I woke up from my own nightmare that night – a nightmare where, once again, I was told that our baby had no heartbeat.  It was so excruciatingly vivid that I woke up and for a moment did not realize that it was only a dream.  I am in an odd place right now, where nausea has subsided, but too early to feel movements from the baby so it is that “hardly seems real” place.

I spent yesterday with both kids, Theo having no school and day care being closed for MLK day.  Quentin was incredibly remorseful about the previous night, and sheepishly hauled all of his stuffed animals back into his room.  He also willingly helped me with laundry to make amends.  I had to debate frigid temperatures versus being stuck in the house all day, and we bundled up and trudged out to Trader Joe’s for a quick errand.  I had started a loaf of bread on Sunday, so then finished it up on Monday.  Bread-making may become my new weekend ritual.  And the loaf turned out gorgeously.

It is getting to be that time of year when I am itching to receive all of our tax forms.  I know that it could be through the end of January before we receive everything, but I always sit down and prepare our taxes immediately at the beginning of February to get it over with.  So I become antsy for everything to arrive…  We have yet in our married lives to have two tax years that were exactly the same in terms of what we needed to include on our return so every year is a bit of a roller coaster, even though I try to prepare as much as possible.

First Appointment

My first OBGYN appointment on the 18th was much harder than I thought it would be.  On the drive to the office I started crying fiercely, reliving the entire experience of hearing that our baby was gone.  I debated bringing Ger with me – I thought that if something was wrong, I would want him there.  But then I also felt that bringing him would be like admitting the possibility that something could be wrong when the likelihood was that everything was fine.  In the end, I went alone.

Then I had to fill out a pregnancy history – including miscarriages and stillbirths, and cried again in the waiting room as I had to fill out “Nelle, 21 weeks, stillborn.”  The nurse noticed my demeanor and asked if I was nervous and I told her that I was.  When she asked why and I told her, she came over and gave me a hug.

The doctor that I saw was the same doctor who did my delivery in September, so I did not have to rehash much.  I told him that I was scared; scared that while I’m nauseous and vomiting, I’m not as nauseous or vomiting as much as previous pregnancies.  He told me that I got lucky this time.  Certainly does not help my nerves.  I’ll be seen by regular appointments until 18 weeks, at which time I’ll start seeing a high-risk specialist.  But he told me that if at any point in between those monthly visits, if I feel like I need an extra visit for an ultrasound or to see a heartbeat, just to let them know.  I have visits scheduled through March, and avoided the doctor who told me that my last baby had no heartbeat like the plague.  I’ll avoid him the entire time, if I can.

Then I reviewed the After Visit Summary in my electronic chart and had to look at all of the classifications surrounding my visit.  “Supervision of high risk pregnancy.”  “History of stillbirth.”  At least I am familiar with the OBGYN group and know they will take good care of me.  When I mentioned to the doctor how hard it was come back he said “Some people don’t come back.  It is too hard, and they switch practices.”

I called to schedule the “extra appointments” for reassurances that the doctor told me that I could do.  The nurse who spoke to me acted like I was asking for something completely foreign and it got harder and harder for me to talk the longer I was on the phone.  I finally scheduled an appointment for next week to hear the heartbeat but what I really want is an ultrasound to measure growth.  However, since talking to the nurse on the phone did not get me very far, I will talk to the doctor again when I go in for my regular appointment on January 15th.  Or maybe having an ultrasound done that day will make me feel better.  But yesterday’s conversation only served to make me feel awful.

I am relieved that my nausea has returned.  I wasn’t able to much enjoy a nice dinner that Ger and I had at Ditka’s last night, but I was honestly grateful.  Apparently the nausea just decided to subside a few days for Christmas.

Three

Today marks three months since Nelle was born.  Outside it is foggy, which is a symbolic reflection of how I feel; like I am in a fog.  I came to the realization that I cannot say “three months since we lost our baby” because I do not know exactly what day her heart stopped beating.  Sometime between the ultrasound on August 24th when we first learned that something was wrong, and September 3rd when my OBGYN found no heartbeat at my prenatal appointment.  Sometime in those two weeks, she stopped moving and somehow I did not realize it, or was fooling myself that other twitches were movements, when they weren’t.

I have been in a fog for the past few weeks.  On Thanksgiving, I was numb.  Grateful that hosting provided me with an opportunity to be distracted, but I felt very hollow.  So devoid of feeling in fact, that the day after, I went back and read some of my blog posts from early September, in an effort to feel something.  That made it too real, however – I began reliving the experience and it became incredibly painful, so I stopped.  Better to feel numb than to experience that much pain.

Yesterday, I changed my cover photo on Facebook, from a photo of the tree where we scattered Nelle’s ashes, to a photo of our home, surrounded by snow.  It was unintentional that it was the day that marked three months since we realized she was gone, and two months since she scattered her ashes.  Once I made that connection, it made me cringe a bit.

Today, I’m not numb.  I’m more sad than I have been for awhile.  I had a few weeks of reprieve from the constant weight of sorrow, but it gets harder as I approach my due date in January, thinking about how I would be in the home stretch at this point.