Monday, August 19, 2013

Invisible Babies

Why is it socially unacceptable to talk about miscarriages?  Why are we supposed to keep early pregnancies a secret?  These are important life events every bit as deserving of acknowledgment as a live birth.  If the possibility of pregnancy loss wasn't considered so awkward to talk about, those of us who go through it probably wouldn't feel so alone.  The burden of feeling obliged to be quiet just makes a bad situation worse.

That being said, losing baby Celestine last week wasn't so traumatic as it was exhausting.  The pregnancy wasn't technically planned, but after two years of carefully avoiding the possibility, we scraped up enough optimism to be excited.  Maybe this time it would be different.  All the circumstances seemed too providential for it to not end well.

I admit, my first instinct was to keep this one under our hats for several months, just because of all the drama which had accompanied our first two losses.  Unfortunately, we had to tell almost everyone.  I had to immediately give notice at my job because all my pregnancies are high-risk and usually involve bed rest of some kind.  Dave had to inform his command of the situation just because of all the drama which might possibly ensue given our history.  We had to tell Dave's family because we had to cancel the trip to Disney World we were supposed to take with them in September.  We had to tell my family because we had told Dave's family and also because they were supposed to watch our dog during this Disney trip.  Everybody at work was ecstatic and started making all kinds of plans for me and the baby, despite my attempts to maintain a healthy strain of pessimism.

Everything went well until the sixth week.  I started bleeding Tuesday morning at work.  They let me go home early and I ended up calling out the rest of the week.  I was convinced it was over at that point and called Dave at work just to let him know.  They let him come home, too, and he brought a bag of doughnuts.  We broke the news to our respective families, and apparently the trip to Disney was once again a go.

I called my OB's office and they sent me out for blood tests.  The results of those tests on Wednesday showed a healthy level of hormones despite all the bleeding, and another round was ordered for Thursday.  On Friday the new results showed a doubling of the hormone levels, exactly as would be expected in a healthy pregnancy.  I was a bit in denial at this point because I couldn't see how anything could be hanging on in there after four days of full-on menstrual bleeding.  However, the Internet said it was possible and that it happens all the time.  All I had been trying to do for those four days was prove I was in fact having a miscarriage so I could pop some painkillers and have a drink, but it didn't seem to be working out that way.  After my initial disappointment that I couldn't just complete the brief grieving process and then get on with my life, we were once again optimistic that we might make it through.  Disney was cancelled again.

The bleeding carried on at a steady pace, but then started to taper off.  I'd been having cramps, but nothing to write home about.  Sometimes it only hurt around my cesarean scar.  I asked the Internet about that too, and apparently it's not uncommon for cesarean scar tissue to adhere to the bladder or abdominal wall and cause chronic pain throughout pregnancy.  Oh, hooray.

Sunday started out well enough.  There was some more cramping, but since the bleeding had stopped, I didn't think much of it.  I was scheduled for another blood test on Monday, but by 3 PM the pain had become impossible to ignore and was worst in one very specific area on my right side.  All the symptoms made me suspect an ectopic, so rather than wait for a late night adventure we went ahead to the ER.

The ultrasound couldn't find any evidence of an ectopic pregnancy, or indeed of any pregnancy at all.  However, the tech could point out all the cesarean scaring, that bothersome septum in the middle of everything, and some suspicious spots she thought were probably fibroids.  The doctor popped in and out of our room and explained that my hormone levels had not doubled again, but had instead begun to decline.  He also expressed some confusion about my changing blood-type, which he then went to go resolve. He promised me some pain meds, which I was more than happy to have, not just because the cramps were killing me but because I didn't want to have endured that stupid IV in my arm all evening for no reason.

Thank God for the military channel, because we probably would have gone stir crazy otherwise.  As it turned out, the nurse who put in the order for my morphine went to lunch and her replacement forgot about me.  We were hanging on the call button when she came back later with a standard dose.  I eagerly awaited some relief, but it never really happened.  She came back later and gave me twice the standard dose.  That made me a little groggy and nauseous, but just made the cramps spread.  Seriously, three shots of morphine had less effect than one Ibuprofen tablet.

They managed to roust one of my OBs from the delivery room around 9 PM and bring her down to evaluate my strange situation.  She wasn't willing to rule out an ectopic just yet, but ordered another round of blood tests for Tuesday just to see if the trend was continuing.  Basically it would be a matter of follow-up at this point.  They asked if I was comfortable going home with the kind of pain I was in, and I said yes, trusting my Ibuprofen to do a better job.  I tried to stop by the bathroom before we left, but I was literally unable to do anything because all my sphincters were cramped shut.  No more morphine for me, please.

Dave made a food run to McDonald's, but I was too sick to eat anything.  Fortunately this morning I woke up with no pain whatsoever, so I'll take that as a good sign.  It looks like the Disney trip is back on.

Once again I feel like I've been chewed up and spit out by the situation.  Dave asked me if I wanted to try again, and honestly my answer right now is no, not again, not ever.  Maybe we can revisit the possibility next year.  It just seems so medically hopeless that it's hard to see much point in making the effort.

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