My Miscarriage Story, Pt. 2: “Numb”

Numb

I got in the car and tossed the bag in the passenger’s seat. Then I noticed my mouth was dry and my heart and head were pounding. I could have attributed that to the fact that I was getting over a bad head cold and that everything from my neck up was so congested I felt like the world was in a stuffy, muted haze. But I knew it was a result of what had just happened. My brain was trying to process and my heart was refusing.

It was a 20-minute drive back to my office. I spent those 20 minutes in silence, feeling like I shouldn’t be driving because I couldn’t focus and kept realizing I was on a road I didn’t remember turning on, and creating a mental list of all the positive aspects of no longer carrying a viable pregnancy.

What kind of crazy person is told her baby is dead and then proceeds to consider all the good things about that? What good can there be about losing a child?! What was wrong with me?!?

I pushed those thoughts out of my head and focused on the positives:

  • I can start the exercise routine I should have started long before now and was lamenting I hadn’t done before getting pregnant.
  • We don’t have to worry about the logistics of traveling cross-country over Christmas with a 5-year-old, a 2 1/2-year-old, and a 3-week-old.
  • I don’t have to significantly reduce my carbs this summer.
  • I can tell my pregnant friend who borrowed my maternity clothes there’s no rush to get them back to me.
  • I can go back to my regular caffeine intake.
  • We don’t have to move Miss Bennett into Little Miss’s room just yet.
  • We don’t have to buy another car this year.

It was at this point I realized what time it was; I needed to go pick Little Miss up from school. I went through the motions of stopping by her school, taking her to the sitter’s, driving back to work, and sitting down at my computer to finish out the afternoon at the office. The juxtaposition of what I’d learned just an hour before and the normalcy of the rest of my life and the rest of the world was mind-boggling. I had no idea what to think, do, or say.

So I laughed. I joked with people. It was business as usual. But it was all in my head. Everywhere else I was numb.

I told a few people. My closest friends, our family. All through email or text. I didn’t want to say the words out loud yet. If I could keep it on “paper” it was just a story I was sharing and I could maintain the distance. All the while, however, I kept asking myself why I wasn’t breaking down. Why I wasn’t crying. I’m an incredibly emotional person. Hallmark commercials, and sometimes even Budweiser commercials, have made me cry. Yes, I even cried at the end of “Toy Story 3” and just last week I sobbed through an entire episode of “Bones.” Why was the death of my own baby not pushing me to collapse into a puddle of tears and snot?

That evening the normalcy continued. Dinner, cleanup, jammies, worship, bedtime for the girls, TV shows for me and Husband, then bed. The next morning we got up, dropped the kids off at the sitter’s, and went to work. I called the doctor and requested a prescription for Cytotec, a drug used for many purposes including inducing the labor-like process that rids one’s body of a lifeless fetus. If I was going to bleed heavily for a couple of hours and be in intense pain, I wanted to be able to plan it so I wasn’t out and about when it started.

That afternoon I spent hours online searching for information about what happens in a miscarriage. What does it look like? What does it feel like? I shared the news with my mommy group on Facebook. We’re a very close-knit group of around 100 women (about 40 of whom are regularly active in the group), mostly Christian, and over the last 4 years since I started the secret group we have supported each other through job searches, across-the-world moves, miscarriages, difficult in-laws, divorce, the death of a child, and more. I knew they’d be there for me.

After articles, blogs, and personal conversations with others who have gone through a miscarriage, I changed my mind about the Cytotec–also known as the abortion drug. According to all I’d heard and read, the process was going to hurt like hell whether I used Cytotec or just let it happen naturally, so why put myself through additional emotional trauma, too?

So I started thinking more seriously about a D&C (dilation and curettage). At this point I knew I couldn’t talk to my doctor about it until Monday, so I still had the weekend to wait and worry.

The anxiety was overwhelming. I was acting normal–talking, laughing, playing with and disciplining my kids, making and eating food–but inside, between every “normal” interaction, I was terrified. Anything that remotely felt like a menstrual cramp sent my heart into a panicked flutter. Was it starting? How fast would it happen? How long before the bleeding began? Should we call someone to take the girls for the rest of the day? I was nervous, scared, and anxious every moment. The only relief was being distracted by my adorable children, my amazing husband, and immersing myself in as much normalcy as I possibly could.

The next day was my birthday.

 

My Miscarriage Story, Pt. 1: Finding Out

Author’s Note: I realize that miscarriage stories are nearly “a dime a dozen.” With proven rates of up to 25 percent of pregnancies resulting in miscarriage, this is hardly an isolated event. However, writing is my therapy, and while sharing my experience may not mean anything to anyone else, it helps me process what has happened, what is happening, and what is still to come. If you are sharing the journey with me, welcome. If you have been here yourself and can relate more than anyone should to what I am experiencing, I’m sorry. I stand with you in solidarity and support. Thanks for visiting, and please feel free to contact me if you’d like to connect.

 

* * * * *

 

Finding Out

The day before Husband’s birthday in March I took a pregnancy test. It was positive. Elated, we shared the news immediately with family and close friends, and not too far behind was our public announcement on Facebook. We’d had two successful pregnancies resulting in beautiful children already, so we didn’t feel a need to wait until after the first trimester was behind us, like many first-time parents do these days, just in case.

For some reason the coming weeks brought with them a strange feeling of paranoia, that we should not have told the world quite yet, and that we could still easily lose this baby. I mentioned my ridiculous fear to my best friend in passing, and that was the most of it.

On April 24, at nearly 9 weeks, I had my first OB appointment. This being old hat to me, I went alone and expected a rundown of all the facts and information I already knew, followed by an official estimated due date and scheduling my next monthly appointment. This is what I got, except that instead of scheduling my next monthly appointment, I scheduled my lab appointment for my glucose test and left the nurse’s office with a pastel pink bag full of pregnancy paraphernalia and a bottle of orange-flavoured syrup in preparation for my 10-week glucose test.

When I finally got to meet Dr. Trussmeyer* (an hour and 20 minutes after my scheduled appointment start) I immediately liked her. She was professional yet kind and soft-spoken with a friendly smile. We talked all about how schedules would go (which I already knew), chatted about how I’d had gestational diabetes for both my previous pregnancies which meant it was likely I’d have it again (which I already knew), and chatted a bit about how long she’d been an OB and why she’d left the big city for a farm town in the middle of Michigan.

As I watched the ultrasound picture on the screen by my head, Dr. Trussmeyer didn’t speak. This wasn’t abnormal to me; many US technicians are quiet while they work and only say something when they’re pointing out a body part so the black and white mass starts looking more like a child to the untrained eyes of its parents. I was about to ask a question when she said quietly, “I don’t see a heartbeat.”

Even this did not alarm me. The fetus was barely an inch long; I’d guess the organs were barely the size of a pencil eraser at the most. Technology is amazing, but it’s not witchcraft.

I swallowed my question and just watched the screen as she searched again.

“I’m going to go see if I can find a colleague to check for me,” she said, standing and removing her gloves. “We never diagnose a miscarriage on our own.”

Tossing her gloves in the garbage she stood by my side and said, “Feel free to sit up; I’ll go see if Dr. Cooper* is available. I hate to leave you alone like this…” she trailed off, knowing there was no alternative. Then she left.

Still, I wasn’t worried. I laid there in the silent, dark exam room, staring at the empty sonogram screen, muttering prayers toward a God I know was listening and watching. I think I said something like, “Help the second doctor find the heartbeat, God. It’s there, the baby is just turned a funny way so the heart is hard to see. Help this second doctor find it easily. Thanks.”

My phone was on the counter by the screen, so I picked it up and texted Husband. “Well… The first doctor can’t find a heartbeat. She went to get a second doctor before diagnosing a miscarriage.”

It didn’t feel awful to say that. It didn’t feel real. It was like I was sharing the plot of what should have been an emotional movie with someone who was missing the opening scenes and I didn’t want them to be lost when they arrived. It was someone’s reality, but it wasn’t mine.

Dr. Trussmeyer came back with Dr. Yoon* who quickly introduced himself and immediately went to check for a heartbeat. I silently shot another prayer heavenward, probably the same as the first time, as I watched the screen, straining to see any semblance of movement.

“I see no heartbeat,” said Dr. Yoon matter-of-factly. His bedside manner was nowhere near the level of my doctor’s. “I concur with Dr. Trussmeyer. I’m sorry.” He stood, removed his gloves, and disappeared. I couldn’t even tell you what his face looked like, to be honest.

After checking my ovaries, Dr. Trussmeyer helped me sit up, then sat down on her stool with her laptop on her knees. In her quiet voice she told me she was going to give me a lot of information, and that it was going to seem like a blur. She told me if I had any questions later to feel free and call in. As she carefully ran down the list of things she needed to share with me, I wondered what she must think of me. When she said, “The first question that is often asked in this situation is why it happened,” I looked at her and said wryly, “There’s no answer is there?”She smiled back and shook her head. “No, there isn’t.” I was smiling, I was chatting. I wasn’t crying. I was sure she thought I was crazy.

Looking back I realize she likely understood completely. She’s been an OB for nearly a decade and in that amount of time I’m sure she’s had to tell more than her share of women that their babies were no longer living. She’s probably seen any and every reaction possible. I think what I was truly wondering was what was wrong with me that I wasn’t more upset than I was.

She told me to come back in two weeks for a follow-up. I got dressed and left the exam room.

At the checkout desk the receptionist pulled up her calendar, assuming (understandably) that I’d be coming back in a month. “Okay, we have your appointment set up for next week for the lab work…let’s look at next month,” she said, clicking away.

“Actually, I need to cancel that appointment next week and make one for two weeks from now.”

“Oh, no problem, we can reschedule.”

“No, this is a different appointment…”

There was a mother and daughter standing next to me at the counter, waiting their turn to check out. I wasn’t ready to admit to anyone that I had lost my baby, and I certainly wasn’t willing to blurt it out for the first time to an unfriendly receptionist at a doctor’s office I’d never been in before and some strangers who happened to be within listening range. I didn’t know what to say.

The receptionist looked up, confused. “Oh, okay…” she looked back at her calendar. “You’ll need to see Dr. Trussmeyer again, then?” When I conceded, she seemed to catch on. The appointment was made and I walked out of the building, still carrying that pastel pink bag of paraphernalia that no longer meant anything to me.

 

* Not their real names

Christmas Books for Preschoolers 2

Last year I put together a review list of the Christmas books I’d gotten from the library and read to Little Miss. The idea was to create a reference for subsequent years as I searched for holiday books. I didn’t want to forget the fantastic books…and I wanted to avoid the awful ones. I also wanted to have a quick way to make reading recommendations to other mamas who wanted the same thing.

Below is this year’s list and review, for a similar purpose. Please feel free to add your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments.

Merry Christmas, Thomas! by A. Vesey
A cute story about Thomas, a cat (no, not the train) who really wants to know what his Christmas presents are. He even gets himself into some trouble in the process. Comically written with even a couple of lines slipped in just for the parents reading the book, the pages are colourful and cute and the story is endearing. This book may be almost as old as I am, but like good wine, good books only get better with age. I’d definitely check this book out again.

Waiting-for-Christmas Stories by Bethany Roberts
Although perhaps a bit long for a typical preschooler’s attention span, this book is actually made up of several short stories, and could easily be read in segments, one or two stories at a time. Each tale tells the story of a different rabbit family member as they prepare during the final hours of Christmas. The pictures are bright and quite adorable; the stories are simple with elements of humour, fun, and reality as well as magic; each page has a good amount of text and large pictures.

Gigi, God’s Little Princess: The Perfect Christmas Gift by Sheila Walsh
This is one of the most annoying, stupid Christmas books I’ve ever read. I’ve been tempted to hide it under the couch so my daughter forgets it exists until I can get it back to the library, but…with my luck I’d forget it was there, end up incurring a $60 replacement fee and wouldn’t that just be ironic? Gigi is an only child (and it shows) who wants nothing but princess items for Christmas. She’s been told (apparently) that she’s a princess because she’s a child of God, but she takes the concept to a whole new level. Though the drawings are well-done, their style looks more early 90s than the 2006 print date the colophon claims. Stupid story, uninteresting pictures, and absolutely no good lesson at all. I will never have this book in my house again if I can help it.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
A classic. What has always enchanted me about this book is the paintings.  They are phenomenal. I love the colour, the lighting/shading, and the emotion his pictures portray. What makes it doubly cool is that the author and illustrator are one and the same. After watching the movie a couple of times I am always surprised at the succinctness of the story in the book, but the story is no less enjoyable. The story is of a doubting boy who almost misses out on his chance to see Santa and the North Pole…and finds that he believes after all. The movie emphasizes the aspect of friendship much more than the book, which centers more around the boy’s unbelief and change of heart and the magic of believing.

Little Whistle’s Christmas by Cynthia Rylant
This book is a case of adorable illustrations making up for the fact that the story is sadly lacking. A real guinea pig who resides in a toy store (for some reason) interacts with all the toys when they come to life at night in the shop. Together the friends write a letter asking Santa if he was the one who made them. Eventually they get a note back confirming it was him, along with a pile of “spare parts” for any toy in need (including vanilla cookies for the ever-hungry lion). To say nothing of the fact that toys in a toy store shouldn’t need extra parts, the story is weak and uninteresting. At least the pictures are cute, colourful, and big.

Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble
This is a super sweet book. But it really isn’t for preschoolers. It’s quite long, with a lot of text on each page, and I think a typical preschooler would have a hard time sitting through a book this long, no matter how engaging the pictures. The drawings are adorably well-done; very realistic, artistic, and colourful. This is the story about a homestead family in the 19th century whose survival is partly reliant on their apple orchard. One tree in particular is their favourite, and when an ice storm tears it down, the children are heartbroken. Their father, however, finds a way to keep the tree and make Christmas special for everyone. I wouldn’t mind owning this book, actually. It’s well-written and such a cute story.

The Hawai’i Snowman by Christine Lê
What’s adorable about this book is that it’s a married couple who wrote and illustrated it, and they wrote it for their daughters. A tiny snowman from the mountains wishes he could go somewhere for Christmas. When he sees a shooting star the moon offers him a wish and suggests he pick a place to visit. The snowman chooses Hawai’i and along the way he uses his own body to help two new friends survive. As a result of his generosity, Santa gifts the snowman a lifetime of enjoying the cold and company of the North Pole. The pictures in this book are beautiful and extremely realistic. The bright colours and vivid detail are spell-binding and the story has a good lesson, as well. I’d rate this one an A.

Silent Night by Will Moses
Definitely a winner, I immediately fell in love with the story and imagery of this book. The words the author chooses to describe scenes and situations are poetic and perfect, but not flowery or superfluous. And while Moses doesn’t have a great grasp on painting attractive human faces, he did a gorgeous job illustrating a Vermont country village in the 19th century with an old-timey, reminiscent feel. The book tells the story of a family about to experience the most memorable Christmas of their lives, but it’s broken into sections titled with lines from the well-known carol. The exact situation is purposely left ambiguous until nearly the end of the book, but the story is beautiful–in more ways than one–and I absolutely love this book.

Santa Comes to Little House by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Always a fan of Wilder’s “Little House” series, I of course loved this story. I do think it’s a little long and elaborate for a preschooler, but the story is fabulous, and not just because it’s part of her “Little House on the Prairie” series. The simplicity of their lives, and the dedicated, special friendship the Ingalls family shares with Mr. Edwards are both huge lessons in and of themselves, especially in regards to the Christmas spirit we all admire and seek out. Great artwork, heartwarming story, and a first-hand look at American history.

Once Upon a Christmas Eve by Kathy-Jo Wargin
As far as imagery goes, I think this is my favourite from this batch of books. Part of it is the cool, quiet blue cover in contrast to the bright white and exciting red most Christmas books use. The story is a bit weaker than I had hoped, but I think that’s mostly the word choice and actual writing, rather than the plot itself. When a young girl decides to find out for herself if the legend is true that at midnight on Christmas Eve animals are given the gift of speech, she finds herself lost in the snowy woods…but then something exciting happens, and she has the best Christmas experience of her life. The paintings are lovely in this story, and I absolutely love the realistic detail the illustrator included. I’d check this book out again, and wouldn’t mind owning it, if only for the pictures.

Conversations with a 3-year-old

My 3 1/2-year-old likes to talk.  Talking

Oh, did you not come to my blog today for the understatement of the century?  Oops.

Anyway, my poor introverted husband has been blessed with an outgoing, people-happy, sanguine, chatty-cathy wife AND a preschooler who can’t stop making noises, even while she sleeps.  We’re all praying Miss Bennett turns out to be a little less vocal, but…she recently hit the 12-month milestone and is showing no signs of the quiet contemplation we’d all hoped for.  Sometimes when I come home from work and Little Miss immediately starts jabbering at me, I give Husband “the look.”  The one that says, “Oh boy…” before I’ve even gotten my shoes off or put my purse on the hook by the door.  His response to me often is his “the look” which says, “you have no idea” and then he mutters underneath her monologue, “All…day…long.”  It’s his way of telling me he feels no pity for me and is happy to pass the responsibility of at least appearing to listen to her off to someone else.  (It’s also kind of his super-obvious-to-me passive aggressive way of saying, “She’s your daughter.”)

Yes, I like to talk.  I’m the parent that says, “Okay, kids, let’s go!” and then ten minutes later they’re back in the play room at our friend’s house with their shoes off because I’m still chatting with the other adults in the house.  Five minutes later I’ve called them again and this time I’ve actually got my hand on the doorknob so it looks like I mean business…

Yeah…

So my point is that Little Miss comes by it honestly.  And although I expect everyone to listen to me when I’m talking to them, I sometimes struggle with listening whole-heartedly to my daughter.  (Yes, I do recognize the double standard there.)  The reason for this is because she repeats herself often, makes predictable arguments, and often starts talking before she even knows what she wants to say.  For example:

LM: Mama, I want…
Me: Yes?
LM: I want…
Me: *waiting*
LM: I…want…
Me: You want…to…???
LM: I…want…to…I want…
Me: You want to WHAT?!
LM: I want…I…want…to…tell you something!

And because I’m a talker, it’s likely that during this whole excruciating process I’m waiting to start a conversation with Husband about something important.  Or I was just on my way out the door, leaving ten minutes late for work…again.  Or I need to turn on the blender.

In addition, her bargaining style, though amusing when observed in other people’s children, is beyond frustrating.  For example:

LM: Mommy, I want a cookie.
Me: Supper is in ten minutes.  If you eat a good supper we can talk about dessert then.
LM: But I don’t want a cookie after supper!
Me: Okay, you don’t have to have one. I won’t force you to eat a cookie.
LM: I want a cookie!
Me: Little Miss, did you ask me already if you could have a cookie?
LM: …Yes…
Me: Did I give you an answer?
LM: …Yes…
Me: Then we’re done talking about it.
LM: Mommy, I have an idea!
Me: What’s your idea?
LM: How about I eat a good supper and THEN I can have a cookie!
Me: *eyes toward the ceiling, mentally mockingly crossing myself *

And now I need a cookie.

Love Notes

When I was a kid, I attended a small private elementary school that provided lunch for students only two days a week.  Every night I would pack my lunch in my pink and turquoise lunchbox, beg my parents for some quarters so I could get a Snapple from the vending machine, and place my lunch in the fridge. 

The next day I would carry my lunch to school, stash my lunchbox in my cubby, and wait excitedly for lunchtime. 

It wasn’t the peanut butter and honey sandwich I looked forward to so much (though those were awfully delicious, if I do say so myself), or the Snapple, or even whatever dessert I’d grabbed (homemade chocolate chip cookies, brownies…).  What made my anticipation of the lunch hour so high was the hope that something extra would be in the box when I opened it.

My dad left for work before I made it upstairs in the morning.  At the time he worked for an insurance company and had to commute into downtown, so he left early in order to avoid the big morning rush.  But just because I rarely got to say goodbye to him before he left in the morning didn’t mean my dad wasn’t thinking of me.

I don’t remember how often it happened, but I seem to recall it was nearly every day.  When I opened my lunchbox I’d find a note scrawled in blue pen on a white paper napkin, signed with my dad’s nonsensical “Z”-looking initial signature.  The notes weren’t long; they were usually just one sentence: “Have a good day!” or “Love ya lots!” or “See you at dinner!”  But as simple as they were, those notes made my day. 

Someday when my kids are in school, I have every intention of resuming the tradition my dad started with me.  To this day I still wish I could open my lunchbox and find a napkin note from my dad.  And maybe a peanut butter and honey sandwich, too.

Bring Your Pony to Work Day

My 3 1/2-year-old loves My Little Pony.  No, not the 1980s version (can you even find that anymore?) but the new “Friendship is Magic” series that actually has an entire (large!) fanbase that’s over the age of 20.  In a moment of weakness while enjoying a relaxed Girls’ Afternoon Out with Little Miss and Miss Bennett…I caved at Build-A-Bear and she stuffed a new best friend: Pinkie Pie, the Plush Version.  Pinkie Pie does everything now – eats with us, sits on the floor next to the tub during bath time, rides in the car with us, goes to the grocery store with us, sleeps in bed with Little Miss, and even carries on conversations with family members, friends, and other toys.

Nearly every day Little Miss asks to come to work with me.  She loves the novelty of not staying home with Daddy and Miss Bennett all day (though they do lots of fun things, too), and she is spoiled nearly rotten by my coworkers.  Since I work in a small, private office, occasionally on short days I’ll let her come with me.  She has a cupboard in my office containing crayons, paper, misc. toys and games, and yes, some ponies that keep her occupied while I work.  (Well, until she ends up at our office manager’s desk playing “school,” playing with the stamps and stickers and markers, and helping sort the mail.)

Most days I tell her she can’t come with me.  Though my workplace is very kid-friendly, flexible, understanding, and accommodating, I don’t want to overuse any of that privilege.  From time to time, on some of those days when I say no, Little Miss runs to her room to find a replacement for herself.  Once she sent a tiny toy cat with magnetic feet to work with me.  Another time it was her current favourite stuffed animal.

Today…I went to work with Pinkie Pie.  She kept herself quite busy, too, so throughout the day I sent pictures to Husband to share with Little Miss.  Here’s how my first Bring Your Pony to Work Day went:

photo(29)

Pinkie Pie 3

Pinkie Pie 2

Pinkie Pie 4

Pinkie Pie 5

Pinkie Pie 6

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