Sunday, December 31, 2006

We Wish You a Scary Christmas*

Updated to add: I'm starting to feel a bit guilty. So, lest anyone accuse me of worrying them needlessly, or worse, using scare tactics simply for the ratings (ha ha), let me say now: Fear not. Everything turns out okay by the end of this post. Unfortunately, Life doesn't give the benefit of a "skip to the end of the story" to see whether or not it has a happy ending. Hence, the scary week I detail below.


Our Christmas weekend started out with the traditional gift of vomit. CG brought yet another illness home from daycare and christened our living room rug just before bedtime. We thought (hoped) he had just eaten too many holiday goodies at the daycare party. But this repeated two hours later, and then again an hour after that. and again. and again...

Saturday, the vomiting finally stopped. Jete and I had gotten almost no sleep the night before, trying to prevent cleaning every rug and blanket we owned. Finally, late in the afternoon, I got motivated to start prepping for the Christmas Eve party we host for Jete's family. I was up late into the evening, baking cookies and preparing as much ahead of time as I could.

Sunday morning, Christmas Eve, I woke up eager to get an early start. I slipped into the bathroom before tackling the rest of the baking and cooking I had on my list. I glanced down at the toilet paper for my usual half-hearted inspection and my heart stopped. Spotting.

The spotting was pink, but naturally, I was still concerned. I called my OB and left a message for the doctor on call. As I sat on the couch waiting for the return call, I twirled my hair and stared into space, thinking. Would they do an ultrasound to confirm the inevitable? What about the 15 people coming to my house in a few hours? Was this some kind of sick joke? Did I really need to find out I'm having another miscarriage on Christmas Eve?

Dr. I. called me back. I explained what I saw, and he asked if we had heard the heartbeat in the office yet. Yes, I told him, we had seen it on ultrasound twice. "Well, then. You're usually safe once you've seen the heartbeat." I laughed on the inside, a bitter laugh. Yeah, "usually" safe, except for that whole last time when we saw the heartbeat twice and it DIED ANYWAY.

He was understanding about my concerns. "Really, it's probably nothing. And unfortunately, there's nothing we can do about it even if there is an issue. I don't see any reason for you to spend the holiday at the hospital. Call if it gets any worse, or come in first thing Tuesday when the office opens, if it makes you feel better."

After checking, AGAIN, about a hundred times, I decided it might not be as bad as I originally thought. He was probably right; it was probably nothing. Women spot all the time. No point in getting all worked up yet. I'd just go on about my Christmas business. Nothing takes your mind off an impending miscarriage like assembling seven cookie platters.

A few hours into my effort, my father called. "Did Sete go to the hospital?"

My sister Sete, a Type 1 diabetic, had been having some blood sugar issues. Her readings were really high and no matter how much insulin she took, they weren't going down. Her doctor finally recommended she go to the local emergency room to be treated. My mother had gone there with her.

Everyone insisted I finish my work for the party. Most likely, they'd get things under control in a few hours and send her home. There was no reason for me to sit there with them when I had other things to do. Throughout the afternoon, I got periodic updates from my mother. In the meantime, I was a nervous wreck. I distracted myself by baking, helping Jete clean the house, watching the boys - and trying not to go to the bathroom. AGAIN.

Evening came, and the party prep was basically finish. Just five minutes after the first guests arrived, my mom called me again. They were admitting Sete to stay overnight. She was doing okay, but the treatments they had tried weren't working like they'd hoped. They didn't want to send her home until everything was completely stable.

I felt terribly guilty for not going to see her at the hospital. But she called once she got to her room and told me to stay home. She was exhausted and was just going to rest anyway. I went on with the job of hostessing, but once things got rolling, I kept taking opportunities to escape to my bedroom. Laying on my bed, I'd watch Miracle on 34th Street, and zone out for a few minutes. I was having a really hard time being "on" with the guests. I just didn't care.

Finally, around midnight, after all the guests had gone home, Jete and I slunk into bed. Less than an hour later, CG woke up, coughing and crying for me. As soon as I stood up, I knew the spotting had changed. I went to his room to comfort him, then quickly went into the bathroom and turned the light on. When I checked, the light pink spotting from earlier in the day had changed to heavier, bright red, blood.

I got back into bed with a thud, and Jete asked me how CG was. "Fine," I told him. "But... the spotting's worse." He rolled in my direction and sighed. "But there's nothing we can do right now, right? Whatever's gonna happen will happen?" I nodded. Within a minute, he was snoring again. I stared at the ceiling.

Finally, I fell back asleep again. This time, we were both woken with a start around 3 AM. Ethan was crying. We both rushed to his room to find him completely congested. His nose was blocked with mucus. More frightening, he sounded incredibly wheezy. He seemed to be gasping to catch his breath.

Like a newborn, you can't explain to a severely disabled child how to cough or blow their nose. We tried a few different positions to make him more comfortable - holding him, rocking him the recliner - but nothing worked. Finally, we decided to take him into the bathroom and give him a steam treatment. (Thank you, 45 viewings of Terms of Endearment, for the idea.) I sat on the bathroom floor next to Ethan until the hot water ran out. He was breathing easier. Jete set him in an upright position on the recliner and set up his own sleeping quarters on the couch to be near him.

When morning finally came, I was beyond exhausted. The Christmas gifts remained unwrapped in my closet. As time was short, I had planned to wrap them first thing Christmas morning before CG got up. But now, my heart wasn't in it. He had gotten so many gifts the night before, I felt only a little guilty. But my idea of a nice Christmas morning - just the four of us, opening gifts - was out the window.

My parents came over in the early afternoon to watch the kids so we could go visit Sete at the hospital. She was doing much better by the time we got there. They had given her with antibiotics for an infection that most likely caused the issues. Her blood sugars were finally under control after being on an insulin IV overnight. Assuming everything stayed stable once she was back on her pump, there was no reason she couldn't go home that day. She eventually got discharged around 10 PM Christmas night.

When we got back home from visiting, I asked my parents to take CG to the Christmas meal at my grandparents' house. We had planned to take Ethan, but his illness obviously changed things. I was too tired and distracted to socialize, even with my own family. But I wanted CG to enjoy Christmas as much as he could, opening his gifts with his cousins. They left with him, and I took a much needed nap. It certainly didn't feel like Christmas.

By Tuesday morning, I was an emotional wreck. I called the OB office at 8:30 exactly, as soon as they opened. I needed to be seen, ASAP. I was bleeding ("spotting" didn't seem strong enough), and I needed to be checked. They told me I could come in immediately.

When I got to the office, there were already a few other women in the waiting room. I gave my name at the desk and sat as far away from everyone else as possible. Two visibly pregnant women started a conversation across the room. I was stuck directly in their path.

"When are you due?"


"I'm due in the middle of January. But hopefully they'll take this baby sooner, 'cause I can't be pregnant no more!"

"Tell me about it! I'm so sick of being pregnant."

"Do you know what you're having?"

"A girl."

"Me too! I think it's the girl pregnancies that make you more miserable. Even after they're born. They're so CLINGY. Which baby is this for you?"

"My sixth."

"SIXTH? Wow!"

"Yup. After this, I'm done."

"Me too! This is my second, but I'm all done after this. I'm not havin' no more babies. I want my body back! I want to be able to wear cute clothes again!"

I glanced at the two of them. As tears sprang to my eyes, I looked away. I hated them. Two women who were due at nearly the same time that I should have been. I couldn't help but think... in nine months most women have a single baby. And here I was, most likely losing two in the same gestation time.

The doctor finally called me in. She asked me about my symptoms ("Spotting, then BLEEDING.") and what the status was at that moment ("Well, it's turning brown again. But did I mention the BLEEDING? The RED bleeding?") She got out the doppler thing and started looking for the heartbeat. And looked. And looked. I stared at the dots on the drop ceiling, waiting for her to give up already. We all knew where this was going.

After about a minute of searching, I heard it. The galloping horses. She turned off the doppler. "Well. Heartbeat sounds fine. 152." I looked at her, disbelieving. "Are you sure that wasn't mine?" She laughed. "No. Yours was around 90." She moved on to check my cervix. Long and closed. Everything looked okay.

As I sat up, she gave the usual explaination. Many women bleed, and many times we don't know why. But everything seemed good so far. I should have an ultrasound and go from there. Since I was already scheduled to come in the next day for the nuchal check, I could just keep that appointment.

For the next 24 hours, I was more than skeptical. I would not be lulled into a false sense of security. Just because it had a heartbeat on Tuesday didn't mean it would still have one on Wednesday. Wait and see. Wait and see.

Wednesday, I had my ultrasound. Amazingly enough, it went fine. There was an appropriately sized (13 weeks, 2 days) creature. There was a heartbeat. There was no visible sign of why I had been bleeding. She was unable to get the nuchal thickness because it was moving around too much. Which didn't bother me, since we decided to skip any additional genetic testing. I want the answer to only one question: "Will it die?" If the testing can't tell us that with 100% certainty, it won't change anything.

The bleeding has basically stopped now, although I still get the occasional pink or brown smudge just to keep me on my toes. The nausea is consistent, my boobs hurt, and I'm enjoying round ligament pain whenever I do too much. I guess those should all be good signs. Still. I'm not holding my breath. Two more weeks until my next appointment. Who knows what can happen by then?

But I'm not going to worry about that now. Not until next year.

Happy New Year, everyone. I sincerely hope 2007 is a better year than 2006 was, for me and for all of you. I'm thinking there's a chance it will be. I mean, there's a seven in the number. That's gotta be good, don't you think?

(* Let's just hope the next post isn't titled, "...And a Crappy New Year".)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Coming Out Of the Dark

I lifted my head off the ultrasound table and turned to Jete.

"Well. It isn't dead yet. That's something."

He smirked. "You optimist, you." We both laughed.

Dr. I. came back into the room with the tissues he'd been searching for. "Hey. No laughing in here."

"Sorry," I said, as I wiped the goo from my stomach. "I'm telling bad jokes."

Jete stood up with my coat. "Dark humor."

I mentioned the joke again that night at a friend's house. No laughter then, just sympathetic winces.

Guess you had to be there.


Things are progressing so far, I suppose. I'm around 11 weeks now and I've had two quick ultrasounds just to make sure there's still a heartbeat. No science involved with these; they're basically for my own peace of mind.

After Christmas, we go in for the nuchal screening and some added bloodwork to look for genetic defects. Since we've got nothing else to go on, they're working with the assumption that the miscarriage was caused by a genetic problem. They want to be able to tell me as early as possible if there's a chance things might be heading down a similar path.

Although, honestly, I don't think we would change our course of action if there was a "possible" genetic problem. Most of the positives are false results. And even if it was a true issue, what would we do? If something was 100% fatal, with 100% certainty, we'd probably take action. But the gray areas?

Every situation is different, and I can totally understand why someone else would feel the need to take action if their child had a genetic problem and they knew early enough on. But for us... how can have a problem with a disabled or handicapped child? Especially when we already have Ethan? What does that say about him?

Of course, this is all getting way ahead of myself. Let's just wait and see if it will still be alive at the next scan. Then we'll take the step after that. No point in counting my embryos before they hatch.


Your comments on my last post made me cry. Seriously. Granted, it doesn't take all that much to make me cry on a normal day, never mind when I'm newly pregnant, but still. I was touched.

I've been watching people lately, online and in real life. I've started to face that the hard edge human beings have, the one that ultimately causes war and strife, runs deep. As a child, I was an idealist, using each birthday candle to wish for World Peace. I hoped that, over time, wars would end around the world. Girls would start being nice to each other on the playground. People would stop being so damn MEAN all the time. After ten years or so, I realized my wishes were never going to come true, so I started using them on more selfish things, like a nice boyfriend to come along.

As I've grown up, I've realized it's never going to stop. As long as someone in the media is mocking Britney Spears or someone at work is gossiping about so-and-so, there will be others to join in. The mobs will gather, the rocks will be thrown. The mud keeps slinging, and it's getting deeper every day. We're all drowning in it.

It makes me really sad how cruel people can be. I try hard to make a conscious efffort not to participate in it, but it gets me sometimes anyway. It makes me wonder if it's not better to just go back into your home and lock the door, and hide from everyone. Leave all the ugliness Out There.

But I've also come to understand that it's not that simple. If you shut yourself off from people completely, you miss out on the goodness they can offer: the kindness, support and good will people can display when they want to. Like your comments on my last post, or the love the world poured out to the Kim family this month. There's got to be a little hope for the world if we can display that much goodness.


I'm sure this post seems disjointed, but inside my head it makes perfect sense. Maybe I'm a sentimental pregnant woman, or maybe all that Christmas music is making me sappy. But for the first time in a long time, I'm starting to decide that things don't have to look all that bleak. I'm allowing myself the hope that this new year could be a slightly better one than the last, both for the world at large and my own little corner of it.

I sincerely wish you all a tall glass of Hope this Christmas as well. It's hard to find, but it's delicious.