Friday, September 29, 2006

Fine and Good

So I'm totally fine. I'm good, actually. I'm enjoying a Friday evening after what seemed to have been one of the longest weeks this year.

And then I see this.

And I'm crying again, and thinking of all we lost. And thinking, she totally deserves that, they all do. But so do we. Don't we? And we haven't just lost it once, we've lost it three times now. We lost that first year that Ethan should have had. And yeah, we had it with CG, but we didn't Get It, didn't enjoy it at all, because we were so worried that it would all come crashing down on us at any minute. And now, we've lost it again, before we even had a chance to relax and do things differently. It all seems so unfair, and yes, we aren't alone, and yes, there are so many other people who have it worse. But right now, in this moment, I'm not thinking of them. I'm thinking of me. And that's okay.

But no. I'm fine. I'm cleaning myself up, wiping my eyes. Everything is good.

Seriously. Carry on with whatever it was you were doing before. There's nothing to see here.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Crash Landing

I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but I don't travel on airplanes. Ever.

Some people think I'm crazy, or missing out on some part of life that I'm supposed to desire, but it doesn't bother me in the slightest. I have zero interest in travel, and never have the vacation time to waste anyway.

Basically, I'm terrified of flying. I suppose "phobic" is the proper word. I have nightmares occasionally that I'm being forced to get on a plane against my will. I would give up all of my darkest family secrets under such torture.

The immediate assumption is that I'm afraid of flying because I'm afraid of crashing. And yes, that's a big part of it, naturally. (Did I mention I'm also terrified of heights? And falling from heights?) But there's more to it than that.

I flew once, the summer before my senior year of high school. I found myself nauseous through the entire flight. And worse, in severe pain. My ears, the bane of my existence with repeat infections through childhood and beyond, were killing me.

Everyone gave me tips. Hold your nose and blow, hard. (Do you know how much that HURTS by the way?) Chew gum. Take a decongestant. Swallow. A lot. None of them worked.

I found the worst parts of the flight were the take-off and the landing. Not only were they the most terrifying parts crash-wise, they were the most physically painful. My ears reacted almost immediately to the pressure and started to hurt. They stayed blocked that way until several hours after we landed, when they painfully popped back open.

I decided somewhere along the way that things wouldn't be so bad if the pilot would just ascend and descend more gradually. You can't just climb from zero to 20,000 feet (or vice versa) in a short amount of time and expect a body not to react. The sudden change was too much for my insides to take. Pain was a natural recourse.

Ever since that trip, thoughts of take-offs and landings fill me with dread. I've chosen to stay earthbound.


This past Tuesday marked exactly five weeks since The Ultrasound, and four weeks since the D&E. Tomorrow marks one month since I became officially Not Pregnant.

It amazes me how much a life can change in one short month.

My hormones are responsible for much of that change. Since I was twelve years old they've been running the show around here, keeping things going in a steady rhythm. They made this pregnancy possible in the first place. But by slamming on the brakes from Pregnant to Not Pregnant in a ten minute procedure, I experienced a rapid descent in levels. Suddenly, I felt like I was crashing.

As the weeks went on, this wreaked havoc with my body and my mind. The grief was a big part of it, but the hormones were in charge. I found myself experiencing typical PMS symptoms, but in overdrive. I was having panic attacks regularly for the first time in three years. My body felt exhausted, completely wiped out. And of course, there was plenty of crying.

Last week, I went to my doctor for a follow-up visit. The nurse brought out my chart and asked me how I was feeling. Four weeks of pent up emotions hit me, and I burst into tears.

She let me use the bathroom and I tried to clean myself up. When I came back out she brought me into the exam room. I couldn't help but remember being in the same room only a few weeks earlier, under different circumstances. I felt the tears come again. I scolded myself. Not now. This is not the time.

I thought about my reaction. This is not the time. It seemed ridiculous. When is the time? There's never a good time to stop and cry. Can't cry in front of the kids. Can't cry at work. Can't cry at the grocery store. If I can't cry in my doctor's office, what's left?

I got through the past few weeks, day by day. Sometimes I gave myself permission to cry - in the car; in bed after everyone else was asleep. I tried to get some rest. I tried to concentrate on the details. Slowly, things started to improve.

This past Monday was okay. That night, I woke up at 2:30 in the morning and my mind was racing. Ethan's second surgery has been scheduled for November... I have to call the surgeon back to find out how long he'll be in the hospital. I wonder if we need a hotel room? I'll have to find a sitter for CG. We still have to schedule the pre-op visit. I'd better complete the family medical leave forms again; I think they expired.

I would have rather been sleeping, but at the same time, I took this as a good sign. Preparing for appointments, thinking through the details in the middle of the night - this is my life's version of "normal".

Tuesday afternoon, I realized that I had felt almost human for the entire day. None of the roller coaster emotions, none of the vague physical complaints. For the first time in a month I felt ... good.

I've found solid ground again.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


I have a tendency to associate odd songs with people or moments in my life. Case in point: Ethan's theme song. Forever I will think of his strength when I hear that song, even if it was written with another meaning in mind.

Someday I'll fly
Someday I'll soar
Someday I'll be so damn much more
Cause I'm bigger than my body gives me credit for

At the same time, Evanescence's My Immortal also reminds me of Ethan - but in a different way. On hearing it the first time, I was immediately brought back to the pain and grief I felt at "losing" Ethan - the figurative death of our much anticipated, and much loved, neurotypical child.

You used to captivate me
By your resonating light
Now I'm bound by the life you left behind
Your face it haunts
My once pleasant dreams
Your voice it chased away
All the sanity in me

These wounds won't seem to heal
This pain is just too real
There's just too much that time cannot erase

When I was pregnant with CG, I became attached to The Reason by Hoobastank. It touched on my lingering pain about Ethan and myself and all we'd been through, and how I was becoming refocused with this new chance at life.

I've found a reason for me
To change who I used to be
A reason to start over new
and the reason is you

The morning of my c-section, we had to be at the hospital at the crack of dawn, so I put VH1 on to help wake me up. This video was the last one I saw before we left. Fitting, I think.

Since my miscarriage, I've heard a few songs that I think will be permanantly ingrained in my memory as representative of this time in my life. On the way home from the D&E, we had to stop at CVS to get a prescription filled. While Jete ran into the store, I sat in the car listening to music, and heard What Hurts the Most by Rascal Flatts.

What hurts the most
Was being so close
And having so much to say
And watching you walk away
And never knowing
What could have been
And not seeing that loving you
Is what I was tryin’ to do

This past summer, I frequently caught this video on CMT while getting ready for work in the morning. Being a sappy hormonal pregnant woman, it always made me cry. At the time, I equated the song to the story in the video: a young girl singing about her boyfriend's sudden death. But suddenly, in a dirty parking lot, it became about my own loss instead. Yet another loss of "what could have been".

On the way to work the other day, I heard Kelly Clarkson's Behind These Hazel Eyes and was surprised to find myself crying. The song had never upset me before, but like everything else in my life, things just seemed different.

I told you everything
Opened up and let you in
You made me feel alright
For once in my life
Now all that's left of me

Is what I pretend to be
So together, but so broken up inside
'Cause I can't breathe
No, I can't sleep
I'm barely hangin' on

Here I am, once again
I'm torn into pieces
Can't deny it, can't pretend
Just thought you were the one
Broken up, deep inside
But you won't get to see the tears I cry
Behind these hazel eyes

The lyrics seemed to echo the running commentary in my mind lately. As much as I tried to stay distant, tried to take the "wait and see" approach, I couldn't. I let myself believe things could be okay this time. Someone left the window open and that damn bird flew in again.

I hate birds.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Things People Say

Things People Said When We Announced We Were Expecting:

  • "Better you than me."
  • "Where are you going to put it?"
  • "Aren't your hands full enough?"
  • "I'd kill myself."
Other Things People Said When We Announced We Were Expecting:
  • "Congratulations!"
  • "That's so exciting."
  • "Good for you."

Things People Said When They Found Out I Had a Miscarriage:
  • "Was it a planned pregnancy?"
  • "Sometimes, the father secretly doesn't want the baby and that's what happens."
  • "Well, CG is always jumping on her and kicking her in the stomach..."
  • "Don't think you've seen it all. There are a lot of other bad things you haven't even experienced."
Other Things People Said When They Found Out I Had a Miscarriage:
  • "I'm so sorry."
  • "My wife and I went through the same thing."
  • "Our prayers are with you.
  • (All of your comments.)

Thank you all. It really does mean a lot to me.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Two Steps Back

The Short Version

What I Did On My Summer Vacation
  1. Re-learned the joy of good chicken curry.
  2. Prepared for Ethan's surgery.
  3. Watched The Polar Express and Toy Story a combined total of 14 million times, therefore cementing my love of Tom Hanks.
  4. Went to over 20 doctors' appointments.
  5. Added a few new sites to my regular blog reads.
  6. Researched the world of handicap vehicles.
  7. Took CG on a trip to Mystic, including a failed visit to the Mystic Aquarium. (Remind me next time that CG's favorite part of any trip is the local McDonalds.)
  8. Started the process of enrolling Ethan in school for this fall.
  9. Had a miscarriage.
  10. Ate a dozen chocolate chip cannolis.
* * *

The Long Version

Jete and I planned a family, albeit haphazardly by some accounts. Granted, both of our children were the product of "surprise" pregnancies. But it worked for us.

Late last year, I got bit by the baby bug. Ethan had recovered from his surgery, and removing his cast had marked a butterfly-like transition to big boy. CG had long left babyhood behind and become a toddler. For the first time in my life, I realized that I wanted to have a baby - on purpose. After stifling my feelings for a few months, I decided it wasn't going away. Jete and I talked, and decided to do what all those wacky kids are doing these days: Try.

We considered the timing, and decided to start trying at the beginning of the year. Never having done this on purpose, we didn't know how quickly it would happen, if at all. We couldn't assume that things would go smoothly. If we learned anything at all from the past five years, it's not to take anything for granted. Life can be very messy.

But by early May, I was pregnant. According to my calculations, I was due exactly on Ethan's fifth birthday. Initially, this made me uneasy. Bad memories and all that. Instead, I decided to look at it as a happy sign. What a wonderful birthday gift for Ethan: a new sibling to share it with.

I'm a math girl. Naturally, I worried about miscarriage. The odds are 1 in 4, maybe higher. I'd never had one, and I was in my third pregnancy. I couldn't shake the feeling that the odds might catch up with me someday. But we had an early ultrasound to confirm dates, and saw the heartbeat. The odds drop dramatically at that point. I tried to relax.

Once I entered the second trimester, we started to settle in. We slowly told some of our coworkers. Still, I wasn't ready to talk about it here. We couldn't talk in permanant terms yet. And we were nowhere near ready to discuss names. Names are something we always save until after The Big Ultrasound. We like to 1) make sure the baby is healthy first, and 2) find out the gender, if possible. Only then can we start feeling slightly confident about the future.

It seemed like forever before The Big Ultrasound came around, but it finally did. It fell in the middle of a crazy week - the same week as Ethan's surgery. We had appointments four out of the five workdays that week: an anesthesia consult, the ultrasound, a follow-up with my OB-GYN and Ethan's surgery at the end of the week.

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, we arrived for our ultrasound. I was somewhere around 19 weeks at that point. I watched as the tech took several measurements that read between 14 and 17 weeks. She quickly told me I could use the bathroom and left to get another doctor. She had never shown us the heartbeat. I knew immediately that there was nothing to show. The baby was dead.

We waited as she got a doctor, then watched as he led her through check after check, making sure the diagnosis was right. They wouldn't tell us anything until they were 100% sure. Finally, they told us that the baby had died sometime in the past few weeks. They couldn't say when, and they couldn't say why. Most likely, we will never know.

We went to my OB-GYN's office to discuss our next steps. Because I was so far along, it was dangerous to wait for nature to take its course. But because of my previous c-sections, inducing was too risky. My best bet was to have a D&E to complete the miscarriage.

My doctor wanted to schedule it for two days later, on Thursday. I would be given general anesthesia and would definitely need at least one day to recover. I told him about Ethan's surgery, and he told us to go forward with it as planned. We could have the D&E the next week instead.

We called our parents to let them know and asked them to do the trickle down calls. I sent a mass email to all of my friends and co-workers. Everyone had been so excited, anxiously waiting to hear what we were having. I couldn't bear to get the happy phone calls later that night. I couldn't handle telling the same story over and over again.

Three hours after my appointment, I started cramping and spotting. It was almost as if my body had waited for us to find out first before doing what it had to do. I spent the next few days at home, terrified that I would start hemmorhaging at any moment.

Ethan's surgery was a breeze. It took even less time than the doctors had originally predicted. He slept it off for three days with almost no pain. The weekend came and went in the blink of an eye.

On Monday, they inserted laminaria to help dilate the cervix. On Tuesday morning, I woke with severe cramping, coming and going every few minutes. I thought, "This is what labor must be like." I'd never been in labor before, and I didn't see what the hype over natural childbirth was all about. I was miserable, exhausted and completely drained. I just wanted it all over with.

At the same time, I was terrified about being put to sleep. My only experience with general anesthesia was Ethan's birth; a rapid, emergent event where I was strapped down and forced to breathe the drug through a mask. The entire time, I was frightened that I was going to die. I didn't want to go through that again.

This time, things were different. They gave me medicine through the IV that made me sleepy. Then I don't remember anything else until I woke up back in my room. It was almost pleasant in comparison.

My physical recovery was faster than I expected. I was exhausted, but not really sore. Somehow, I thought it should hurt more.

Emotionally, I've been okay most of the time. Maybe it's my catastrophist nature that helped prepare me for this ahead of time. Maybe it was my terrifying experience with Ethan's birth that put this into perspective. I'm not really sure.

Ten days later, I find myself disappointed more than I'm sad. Annoyed more than I am angry. Feeling things, but in subtle shades.

I'm irritated that we wasted this entire year, hoping, making preparations, taking tests, going to appointments, all for nothing. One step forward, two steps back.

I'm disappointed that things didn't go the way we planned. That there's no need to choose a name anymore. That Ethan won't have someone to share his birthday with.

I'm irritated that I was so jaded by Ethan's birth that I almost expected a terrible outcome.

And of course, I'm afraid. Afraid of never knowing what happened. Afraid of what people think. Afraid of January coming. Afraid to get pregnant again. Afraid to not get pregnant again.

We will try again. We aren't ready to close the doors on our family just yet. If things don't work out, we're ready to accept that, but we won't know until we try. Besides, we've got more fight in us still. We may have been knocked down a few times, but we're up again, ready to go.

In the meantime, I find inspiration in the incredible women who have been through this before; in some cases, time and time again. I know I'm not alone. In a strange way, this experience makes me feel more connected to the world; a part of a bigger and more chaotic system.

And as I'm sure you all know, in chaos, there is order. Sometimes, you just have to take a few steps back to see it.