Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Long Story: Cherry Blossom

When I was about 10 or 11, my mother, myself and my late and sainted Great Aunt Myrtle (sainted not only due to the fact that she was the nicest lady that you’d ever want to meet, but because she was married for a rather long time to my “uncle” Charles; he of the terrible driving, mouth like a sailor and teller of inappropriate stories.) traveled to Kansas for the wedding of one of my cousins. We were put up in the house of a generous friend of the family and all bunked in the same room.

After an hour or two on the first night of our stay, it became clear to my mother and I that dear, sainted Aunt Myrtle snored like a congested Army cadet sleeping off a week long hangover after shore leave. To combat this aural assault, my mother turned on the air conditioner and returned to a few hours of slumber. However, this method turned out not the be foolproof, as Aunt Myrtle was delicate of composition, awakened to a chill in the air and rose to turn off the unit. Of course, this cycle was repeated many times a night and all of us returned to Maryland happy to have witnessed the wedding, but even happier to get a good night’s sleep. (All I can say is that Uncle Charles must have been deaf as well as crazy.)

It was this trip that I recalled as I tried to catch a few winks on the hospital ward on Sunday night, while both of my ward mates did their best impression of bunged up hippopotimi.

This was not the blog entry I wanted to write this week.

Since the last pregnancy went so well, we figured that my body had probably sussed out this whole baby-building thing, so I decided to be as Zen as possible and hopefully all would be well.

I’d be forgiven for being optimistic when, last Thursday, I finally reached the magic 12 week mark without incident. Saturday was the Prawn’s birthday, we had friends coming to celebrate, life was good.

But then, on Friday, there was blood.

After a rather predictably useless visit to A&E that night that yielded little more than a bad bruise due to an over enthusiastic medical student’s blood taking attempt, my fears of the worst had to be put aside in order to put the finishing touches on 48 pink and yellow cupcakes.

In the grand scheme of things, the one mercy that I was afforded over the weekend, was that the day of the party, I was able to be wholly there for my daughter and even managed to have a great time with family and friends even though I knew that I was probably staring down the inevitable. The Prawn’s ecstatic face when she noticed that we’d decked the ceiling with helium balloons was reason enough to be cheerful. Being able to watch her hugging and kissing her godsister and the two of them laughing like a pair of loons while playing together…fantastic.

However, on Sunday, it was pretty apparent that all was about to go pear shaped, so back to the hospital we went.

Our first point of contact was the most uninterested Ukranian medical foot soldier who could not have been more unhappy about working the Sunday night sports injury/domestic violence shift. (Seriously, guys, you’re REALLY wanting to go to the emergency room because you tripped while playing football and have a bit of a swelling on your ankle? SUCK IT UP, BUTTERCUP; USE AN ICE PACK.) It’s no bloody wonder, really, judging by the state of of my fellow A&E patients. However, unlike most of them, I was admitted after actually being able to see a doctor that specialized in, oh, what was actually wrong with me. (As relieved at I was to see an OBGYN, I am still suffering from her efforts to insert a canula in my hand; I am the proud owner of a 3 inch long bruise running down my arm. Both she and Mr DD were alarmed at the small, red fountain that erupted.)

My previous experience on a hospital ward during the week that I had the Prawn loomed large in my mind as I was wheeled up to where they stashed gyn patients. (Anyone who’s able bodied who has been stuck in a wheelchair will tell you that this is a vaguely humiliating experience.) However, the wing that I was escorted to was newer, cleaner and by FAR more comfortable than Labor and Delivery. (My guess is that since L&D is a constant revolving door of a place, it can never been quite as well looked after. ) I quietly slipped into the dignity-stripping hospital issue nightgown, tearfully said goodnight to Mr. DD, and after giving up on getting something to eat (I hadn’t had anything since 3 in the afternoon) tried to catch as much sleep as humanly possible between the nocturnal apnea antics of my two ward mates.

Morning on the wards starts at 6. As it was likely I was going to be offered surgery sometime that day, my chart was stamped with a large “DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS” sign, guaranteeing an entire day of a mouth that tasted like the underside of a city bus. I had little to do but wait for the scan that was scheduled for 8.30 that would inevitably show me what I already knew to be true, so I passed the time dozing while listening to the two other ladies (who had obviously been on the ward for some days) complaining about the time it took to get their pain medication.

Since Mr DD had to drop The Prawn off at nursery around 8, making the scan at 8.30 was always going to be a bit of an ask, but when I realized that I was about to be wheeled down to the antenatal wing by myself, I couldn’t help but feel slightly desperate. The feeling of desperation increased when I and my unnecessary chariot were left by the reception desk to watch a parade of endlessly pregnant bellies and beaming mothers walk through for their appointments. Luckily, one of the receptionists showed an ounce of common sense and wheeled me back to a waiting room that was obviously reserved for appointments such as mine, far away from the main waiting room, where I don’t mind saying that I finally completely lost my shit. The scan technicians kindly delayed for 10 minutes in the hope that Mr DD would be able to make it, but when it became apparent that I was holding everything up, I let them know that it was fine to go ahead.

It’s one thing to know something in your gut, but it’s quite another to have it graphically confirmed. Although I was technically 12 weeks pregnant, the fetus had stopped growing at 8 weeks. Since the bleeding had taken so long to start, the diagnosis was: missed miscarriage. The scan technician was very sympathetic, but apparently, in cases such as this, a diagnosis has to be confirmed by a senior technician, so I was left alone in the room, shivering and covered with ultrasound goo with a junior nurse who had no clue what to say to me. Not that I blame her; what in the hell DO you say to someone who’s just seen a dead baby? So, she fell back on what most people do: “Where’s your accent from?”, which turned into, “Oh, from near Washington DC, huh?” which, even MORE oddly turned into, “Is that where Natasha Richardson was from?”

I wanted to shout. But of course, I didn’t and said something along the lines of, “No, she lived in New York. That was a real shame.”

Lucky for me, the door opened at that moment and Mr DD appeared with the senior technician, which was an enormous relief. The senior tech confirmed her junior’s findings and I was sent back up to the ward to wait for a doctor to discuss my options.

Stoke Mandeville is not immune to basic NHS problems, the two biggest of them, in my view are understaffing and bad communication. Suffice to say that it was about 2 hours before the doctor came to see me and then I was pretty much forgotten about until around 3 when the Rock Star finally cornered a nurse and asked her politely, but firmly if she could please find out what in the name of holy hell was going on. I was now going on 24 hours of food and water deprivation (although I’d been given a saline drip to keep me hydrated, this did nothing for my Bus Mouth) and was starting to feel woozy. Not only that, but the Prawn’s going-home time was approaching and we, as of yet, had no idea how we were going to get her.

FINALLY, at 4 pm, a trolley arrived to take me down to the theatre. When faced with the prospect of surgery, it’s natural to think PAST it, but when actually confronted with it, lying on a gurney in the ante-room of the operating room, panic kicks in a little bit. Especially when the first person you see coming out of the theatre is a large man, sucking on a lollipop, covered in tattoos and dressed in scrubs. My moment of predjudice was an odd one; how am I, who have no fewer than 6 tattoos myself, to justify a feeling of dread upon discovering that this be-inked individual is the “master of surgery”? (Meaning, I think that he is responsible for everything and everyone in the theatre being exactly where they should be.) I suppose, when you’re about to trust your anethesthtised body to perfect strangers, that you crave gravitas, which, sadly, tattoos do not always convey. However, he was extremely competant, despite my reservations regarding the sanitary nature of eating sweets in a sterile environment.

The anesthetist was undoubtedly my favorite character of the experience; a rather short and camp character, he winked at me as he began preparing syringes and asked sympatheticly how long I’d been waiting.

“I was admitted last night.”
I told him, welling up a little.

“Oh, you poor lamb! Such a long wait!”
he said, patting my shoulder, “Let’s get you a gin and tonic.”

I’ve been under the influence of anesthetic a good many times and recognised the feeling as he administered what I termed, “the good stuff.” He laughed. “Yes, that was the good stuff. Nighty night, my love.”

The dose must have been relatively light. I’ve always struggled to fight through the fog of anesthetic while post op nurses cajole me to open my eyes. But this time, when I heard the mention of a cup of tea, I was wide awake. Although I’m notoriously picky about tea, the cup of hospital issue overstewed brown water tasted like the nectar of heaven after over 26 hours with no food or drink.

I was released at around 9.30pm.

It’s kind of hard to describe the feeling upon returning home. The relief that I’d felt in the hospital to have everything over and done with gave way to sadness a bit. Two days ago, I’d been pregnant. Now I’m not.

A family member who’s also experienced pregnancy loss wrote to me of her disappointment during one spring season, when wild thing start to bloom. “How can I grieve so much over a zygote smaller than a cherry blossom?” she said, “But I think of those little lost potentials every cherry blossom season.”

It’s this that is most distressing during pregnancy loss; the loss of potential. There is little anyone can do upon seeing two bright lines on a pregnancy test but begin to imagine the change in their lives that will be caused by a life to come and what that small bright spark might bring. When the bright spark is gone, the loss of it’s promise is as devastating as the physical loss to the body.

Everything that I know tells me that this was most likely bad luck. Our bodies have a good sense of self-preservation and know not to waste energy on a pregnancy that will not result in a healthy baby, but it’s hard to want to thank your body for what feels like an act of biological treason. It’s difficult to learn to like yourself again.

But all of you guys know all of this far too well.

Despite my experience, I am optimistic and grateful. I have a supremely amazing and beautiful daughter and a partner who I can rely on unconditionally. We are healthy. We are solvent. We will try again.

We have much to look forward to.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Just a quick one..

I was admitted to the hospital on Sunday night for a "surgical solution" to be performed yesterday afternoon. There were no problems and so far, no pain. Given the choice between this and a "natural" miscarriage, (which I've experienced twice before and found to be drawn out, painful and traumatic) I'd go for the surgical option any day.

Yeah, it blows. Both Mr. DD and I are really sad, but there's parenting to be done, so we're trying to keep it together as best we can.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The End

It is the day of the Prawn's second birthday, and unfortunately, I believe that my pregnancy is over.

My body has a hell of a way of timing things. I was 12 weeks on Thursday and had dared hope that all would be well. But now there is blood. And there are cramps. And I have a party for 16 people to host this afternoon.

Any good thoughts that you can spare my way would be much appreciated.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Birth Story (For Reals This Time)

I've been having some nigglings recently as the Prawn's second birthday approaches. The feeling in the air is the same as it was two years ago or something; the smell of spring. And it's stirred up an uncomfortableness that I've been having a hard time shaking.

The Prawn and I have been occasionally watching baby shows on Discovery Home and Health. I try not to traumatize her with "Home Birth Diaries" as this particular show often involves a lot of unmedicated screaming. (WHICH IS TOTALLY FINE, HOME BIRTH ADVOCATES, but I think it might kind of scare the crap out of my toddler.) However, there are a few that show much calmer births which don't seem to phase her at all. ("Baby coming out of mummy! Hello, baby!")

I've been looking at these natural births (both medicated and unmedicated) in envy recently and realized that the source of my discomfort has been stemming from my really quite shitty birth experience. It seems ungrateful, really, to class a birth experience as totally shitty since both the Prawn and I got to come home in one piece (albeit, I had a whopping great stitched up hole in my belly) but it's occurred to me more and more lately that a lot of the problems I had (and sometimes still have) relating to my daughter probably had their seeds in her birth.

Soon afterwards, I wrote the rather sanitized version. Long, but pithy enough to play down the serious trauma that I was feeling at the time. The only allusion to the unpleasantness of the whole affair were two sentences.

"Here is where I need to process. Two more days on the wards followed that I would sincerely like to forget about."

Well, I suppose two years is enough processing time.

I think the biggest thing for me was the sheer amount of time that I was left alone, both before and after the birth. I'd always imagined that I'd be able to labor with my husband beside me. This was not the case. I spent the majority of the time while I was having contractions completely by myself. I assumed that I'd be treated gently and with understanding. This was not the case either. Apart from 2 midwives who I had only the briefest time with, without exception, everyone that I dealt with seemed harassed and in no mood to deal with pregnant women. I felt TOTALLY alone.

After 3 days previous spent in labor on the ward, I was hovering on the edge of Bat Country by the time the Prawn showed up; I was THAT exhausted. While most women on the post natal ward had been admitted the night before, by the time the Prawn actually arrived, I was on my 4th night of lots of pain and no sleep. Of course, Mr. DD was ordered off the ward at 10pm, leaving me in the care of more surly midwives who were grievously over extended.

Thursday night (I went into the hospital on Sunday) was undoubtedly the low point of my then 32 years of life. The Prawn wasn't feeding well; my milk hadn't come in and she was positively screaming of hunger, keeping awake the 3 other women and babies on the ward (Don't get me started on the ward system, because my head will literally fall off.) which was yet another source of stress. (It's MY child keeping everyone awake) On a 4 day sleep jag, the walls were literally beginning to melt, so I hobbled down the hallway with the bassinet. I asked a nurse on duty (who was doing nothing but reading a magazine, I assure you) if she could pretty please cup feed the Prawn so that I could literally have 15 minutes of sleep. She said of course, so I went back and collapsed.

Two hours later, I woke up in a panic as the bassinet by my bed was still empty. I padded down the hall to the nurses station only to hear a conversation going on inside.

"She said she was tired."

"Bloody hell, she thinks she's tired now, just wait til she gets this little one home! What the hell does she think she's going to do then, pass her off to someone else?"

I'm not a paranoid person by nature, but even I realized that the two women inside were talking about me, so I walked straight in and have never seen two people come closer to pissing their pants.

The one who'd made the last unpleasant comment brightly said, "Alright love? You feeling better?"

"Give me my daughter." I told her. I wish now that I'd added, "and go straight to hell."

The next morning, during the consultants rounds, I told the doctor in no uncertain terms that if she didn't see fit to release me this afternoon, that I was walking out with my baby and she and everyone else could just sit and spin. Although they weren't happy about releasing a Cesarean patient a day early, (and they were right, too. The night I went home, I suffered a major drop in blood pressure) I think they could see the crazy starting to emerge from cracks in my facade.

As soon as I got in the car, I cried all the way home. I have never been so grateful to leave ANYWHERE in my life.

That covers me. But the Prawn was another matter.

The nature of the Prawn's birth made me feel assaulted by her presence. Watching natural births and even planned Cesarean births has made me realize beyond a shadow of a doubt that I did NOT have the kind of experience that was conducive to bonding with a baby. In the hospital and even for months after, she was a duty; this thing that appeared in my life that I was now responsible for and although I didn't resent her, I also didn't really feel much of anything whatsoever. Mr. DD spent a lot of time with her in those early months while I recuperated and processed and I truly wonder sometimes if that's why she sometimes shuns me now in favor of her father. Ironic, isn't it? Now that I AM head over heels in love with her, she wants little to do with me. While I know that it's a phase that she'll hopefully grow out of, it doesn't hurt any less when she shoves me aside, knowing that it's my own bloody fault.

Unfortunately, should this pregnancy come to term, I will be admitted to the very same hospital on the very same ward. I have experience on my side this time, and also the knowledge that the baby will be born on a specific date. I know that some women who end up with a traumatic Cesarean experience desperately want to experience a natural birth, but I am not one of these women. I don't feel like I "missed" anything. I'm not excited by the idea of a second Cesarean birth, but at least I'll feel ready for it. (although hopefully this time, the blasted epidural will last for the ENTIRETY of the operation.)

The Prawn, has of late, begun to understand what "love" means. Driving her to the indoor playground the other day, she began singing, "I love Mummy!" over and over again and grinning her most brilliant grin.

It almost makes it all go away.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Crazy

Yeah. 10 weeks. That's about my limit for my "twig in the stream" approach to this pregnancy.

Much fun was had the first time around with progesterone pessaries. Two little rocket shaped pellets of fun to be inserted straight up the yoo hoo every night before bed. Despite the gagaliciousness of this, it caused little difficulties apart from obsessive hand washing. However, this time around, my IBS has made the importation of these nasty little progesterone bullets a bit of a non-starter. The alternative venue for the pessaries is also a no-go due to my problems with Interstitial Cystitis.

So, after several weeks of this war of guts and waterworks, I slunk back to Dr. BowTieGuy to ask if there was, for the love of god, a better way.

Luckily, there is. I now receive weekly shots directly in the ass. While this doesn't sound ideal, TRUST me when I saw that it is the lesser of 3 evils, despite feeling as though someone has taken an airgun to my hind quarters.

Here is where the crazy comes in.

While taking the pessaries daily, I was aflicted with constant nausea, which sucks, but was at least reassuring. Since the shots began, the nausea has decreased markedly. So I'm left to I actually getting enough progesterone? Has the sick gone because it's simply time for it to piss off or is something not happening that should be?

I've been working hard not to think too hard about the fact that I'm pregnant, because I'm secretly hoping that it will suddenly just be 12 weeks and all will be sunshine and rainbows. Well, partly that and partly that I simply don't have TIME to think about it due to a certain Prawn who wants "BOOKS!" or "JUICE!" "RIGHT NOW!". Roughly translated, I don't have quite as much time to puss around. Not reaching for that thing on the top shelf? Screw that. I have a 30 pound toddler to carry around; I do not have the luxury of being a delicate flower like I did in 2006. And also, the news blackout til week 12? TOTALLY freaking inconvenient. Have you ever tried to make an appointment with a midwife over the phone at work and manage NOT to say anything that might be interpreted by your fellow co-workers as pertaining to pregnancy?

But as much as I tried to convince myself that this was going to be a new, no nonsense pregnancy....the crazy still remains.