Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Bittersweet Return

I know that I'm finally ready to start writing again. I've had many moments lately where I've thought, "Oh, I have to blog about that." It's a good feeling, having these thoughts. It's been a long, dry series of months. It's always a good sign when the inspiration starts flowing again.

But before I feel I can move on, there is one post that needs to be written. A post that has been on my mind for well over a month. It's a difficult post to write, but I don't feel the freedom to move on until I write it. I'm not sure how it will go. The emotions may get in the way of the flow of the writing. But it doesn't matter. This post isn't being written to impress. It's simply being written to try to bring some small sense of closure to some of the pain that has underscored this fall.

Look at this beautiful picture. It's Jeff's artistic rendition of a small plant that we own, that holds its roost on a small shelf above our kitchen sink. If you look carefully, you will see that the plant has three distinct stems: a tall one, a medium one, and a little baby one. Perhaps you see the analogy I'm making. Jeff was given this plant by one of his students when he was teaching Adult Ed. at Westlane in Niagara Falls as a congratulations on our first pregnancy. As you all know, sweet Kaiya bear was the wonderful result of that pregnancy.

I have often looked at that plant since Kaiya's birth and wondered at the thoughtfulness of such a gift. So simple, yet so meaningful. A plant to celebrate the promise of a child. I've watched the plant grow, the "baby" getting bigger, and it's brought an extra bit of happiness to my life. This may seem strange, but it wasn't until this fall that I realized what type of plant it was: a Jade plant. And then I realized what a crazy coincidence this was. Kaiya's middle name is Jade. I'm not kidding. When I thought of the name "Jade" and considered it for Kaiya, I liked it for its connection to the gemstone so valued in Asian cultures. I never even thought of the little plant sitting on our window sill. I'm amazed at the connections that appear in our lives.

Life took a turn for the worse this October. On October 14th, I lost the baby I had been carrying for 12 weeks.

I feel like I could stop this post right now. What else is there to say? How do I possibly explain the experience, or what I feel now?

I awoke with a start around 3 in the morning to the sensation of my water breaking. I literally sat up in bed, deeply inhaling the panic. I knew immediately what was happening. But I had no idea how bad it would get. At the time, I naively thought that I could simply put a pad on and go back to bed. I even thought I might be able to make it to my 12:30 class the next day! I was very wrong. As time went on, the clotting intensified. I would lie down for a while, then feel the pressure, get up to go to the toilet, and pass more clots. After some time, we realized this might not be so simple. Jeff got up to make lesson plans and call in sick. While he was downstairs, and this is very difficult to write, I am very sure the baby passed. It was the largest "clot" I felt the entire time, and as it passed, my body let out a cry that I could not control. I was too terrified to look. I simply flushed. I'm still conflicted about that moment.

Around 7 in the morning, I thought the worst was finished. The bleeding seemed to have slowed down, and I rested, calling different people to let them know what happened. My midwives scheduled an ultrasound for me that day, around 1 or 2, and shortly before then, I had a shower. The bleeding started again. Very heavily. I managed to get dressed, and my sister arrived to go with me to the ultrasound and then a midwife appointment.

I should have gone to the hospital. I should have just cancelled all of my appointments and gone. I kept hoping and praying the bleeding would stop. I was so terrified to go to the hospital. I didn't want to have a D & C. I just wanted the bleeding to stop, and I wanted to go home. By the time Dagmar dropped me off, I knew I was screwed. I knew that I was going to go into shock soon. It was around 5, and I was surprised to be home alone, as Jeff was taking a little longer than expected to pick up Kaiya from daycare. I started to lose it. I started to completely panic. I had never seen so much blood in my life before. It just wouldn't stop. I called Nathan and Rose to ask them to come and watch Kaiya so that Jeff could take me to the hospital, and I completely lost it on Nathan. (I later read that going hysterical is one symptom of shock.) Jeff came home, Nathan and Rose came over, and my parents stopped by. I hugged both of them. I was sobbing and shaking. I was so scared.

We made it to the hospital, but I passed out as soon as we stepped inside. I later had Jeff recount the events, and it seems I was out for quite a few minutes. When I came to, I was in a wheelchair, groggily giving a nurse some information. I was soon put on a bed. Jeff was beside me the whole time. All I remember is being ridiculously terrified... of the IV, of the waiting, of what I knew was happening and going to happen. When I get scared or nervous, I get really cold and shake. My whole body was shaking. Jeff kept finding ways to make me laugh and relax me. And he held my hand. That was the most important thing that I remember about my hospital stay: the sweet pressure of his hand on mine. I can't imagine having gone through the experience without him.

In the end, the dreaded occurred. I had a D & C. And it wasn't that bad. Strangely, I felt no pain...NO pain(!) throughout the entire miscarriage and after the procedure. I thank God for that small blessing.

I ended up having to stay overnight in the hospital because my hemoglobin count was so low. And then I had to endure a full day of blood transfusions. I had lost 2 liters of blood. The following week was rough. I was back to work on Monday, but I was exhausted and had splitting headaches. This continued until I started taking iron pills the following Saturday.

I'm sorry if you found the explanation graphic. I feel it's important for me to write this down. Miscarriages are still a very taboo topic, and as such, they are not well-understood. I hope to add to the understanding.

So how am I now? How have I handled the emotional aspect of losing a baby? It depends on the day. For a long time, I had no choice. I had to just put my head down and work. It was a busy semester, with me juggling three jobs. There was no time, no room for personal reflection, for serious grieving. Many nights, I lit a candle before going to sleep, and I apologized to the baby and told him how much I missed him. But once the candle burned away, I stopped. Then I found myself so tired. I can't tell you how tired I was all of November and into early December. Each day I woke up tired, dreading all that I had to do, and then dragging my weary butt through the day. I put on the face for most people, but as soon as I got home, I collapsed. Napping didn't even make a dent in the exhaustion. All I could see was my gazillion obligations, the busy, chopped-up segments of my day, and all I wanted was to be left the hell alone.

And then, work slowed down, and the past two weeks have been a gradual awakening of feeling. I've been crying more and grieving more, and that's okay. I've been remembering a lot of the details I wrote above, and that's hard, but it's okay too. And I've been hugging Kaiya more (even when she pushes me away), and feeling grateful for the family that I do have.

Every woman expresses it differently. I have a friend who has a hard time seeing pregnant women, or women with newborns at the mall. I find I'm okay with that. I may stare a little longer, or sigh a little deeper, but it doesn't hurt too much. For me, the hard part is when I look at Kaiya and desperately, desperately long for a sibling for her. She is such a little mother in how she plays with her toys, and she would make such a good big sister. We always wanted to have our kids close together.

Along with this pain is the growing fear that it will never work again. We will never have another child. This fear is new, but it's strong. I look at that Jade plant differently now. I look, and now instead of seeing the wonderful family of three, all I see is that there are only three. And I think, "Is that all there is to be, God?" And I hope that I am wrong. But I have a different understanding of pregnancy now. I have realized the true miracle of pregnancy and birth, and I have heard countless stories of the millions of things that can go wrong. And it's hard not to be scared. I've never been quick to get pregnant, and I fear that time is not on my side.

And for now, that is how this story ends. Sadness and fear, and at this point, not a lot of hope. It has been a difficult fall, and all I want now is a peaceful Christmas with time to grieve and maybe, just maybe, a renewing of hope.


mariaborito said...

You're not alone Kath. Thanks for sharing this part of your story. I think of you lots as I carry this baby (13 weeks today). I hope and pray for the miracle of new life to be with you when the time is right again.

James said...

Your "losing it" as you described it seemed perfectly natural to me, given the circumstances. I have no memory of awkwardness in that conversation, just a memory of wanting to act as fast and as best as I could. Thought you might want to know that, since it may quell any fear you may have of calling us again in the future should you feel the need. We'll always be there for you. That's all we can and know how to do.