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.


Two Little Bubs said...

I am so, so sorry to hear this has happened. I'm not sure what to say, but want you to know I think you are a wonderful Mother. I know this after reading your blog for a long time, and now *especially* after reading you hosted a birthday party in the midst of your heartbreaking loss. I cannot even imagine how hard that was. I am thinking of you and sending you many hugs and much hope for the future.

Aunt Becky said...

Rockmomma, I wish I had something good to say. I've been there (twice) and it's awful. Please let me know if there's anything I can do.

lisalou said...

Thinking of you and your family...of cherry blossoms...

Take care.

Also, on a totally different note, how is it that the Prawncess is 2 years old already?! Seriously!

Hopeful Mother said...

I am so sorry for your loss. And the circumstances surrounding it (not that there EVER is a good time for that to happen - but surely that was NOT it).

You are an incredibly strong person and have been through some major crap.

I just want you to know that I am praying for you and your family, for your healing and peace.

Nikole said...

I am so sad to read your news. Thinking of you.

Dr. Grumbles said...

Crying as I type. The little embryos are so very valued and full of potential.

I am glad you remain optimistic. I hope your future attempts yield happier outcomes.

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