Sunday, August 9, 2015

A day I've been dreading

Today is my due date.
You didn't know I was expecting? I don't look pregnant, you say?
That's because I am no longer.

It's been nearly 6 months since that blustery February day.
My OB office called to ask if I could switch a 16.5 week, routine appointment and come in early that day.  "I'll have my 1 year old with me, but since it's just a quick tummy check, sure!", I cheerfully agreed.

Hours later in a small exam room, they were having trouble finding the fetal heart tones with a hand-held Doppler, and suggested I move into another room for a "quick ultrasound."  A lump formed in my throat, but I wasn't too worried as my previous babes were known to occasionally "hide".

But then, minutes passed, which felt like an eternity.
There I lay, half-naked on a hard exam table with cold ultrasound jelly on my abdomen while the OB quietly, yet frantically, searched.
I wanted to grab his hand and stop the exam.
I wanted him to quit prolonging the blow...the life-altering moment...
which was so obviously coming my way.

When I couldn't take the deafening silence anymore,
I finally managed to choke out,
"so there's no heartbeat..."

It felt like a scene being played out in slow motion.

"I'm so sorry, Brianna.  There is no heartbeat."

No heartbeat.
No heartbeat.
No. Heart. Beat.

The words echoed in my head,
the words no mother ever wants to hear.

I was in utter shock.
I was 4 months along!  This wasn't supposed to happen!  I did everything right! Four weeks prior, there had been a strong heart beat, and prior to that, a seemingly normal ultrasound!  How could this happen at over 16 weeks?! 

I glanced over at my youngest son.  I almost forgot he was with me.  He was happily munching away on Goldfish crackers and smiling at me from across the room, completely oblivious to the fact that a part of his mother's heart had just been shattered.

Yet, his presence during this difficult time snapped me back into reality.

I have two, healthy, beautiful boys.
I am blessed.
Other people are not so lucky.

-- Repeat. --

And, as it turned out, I wouldn't have time to be sad for my unborn baby just yet.  Not when there was a plot twist to my story.  After hearing the dreaded "there's no heartbeat," the next words out of the OB's mouth were to inform me that there was something "very wrong with my uterus."  There was concern for a rare placental tumor - a partial molar pregnancy - that he felt was the cause of miscarriage.  He quickly sent me for more labs which corroborated his concerns, and the next day, I was being referred to an oncologist and then to a tertiary medical center for second and third opinions.

Days later, I was in the hospital for my D&E.  After they'd put me under and scraped my poor baby out of my body, I remember waking up with my hand on my belly and just crying.  The nurse asked if I was in pain.  I was indeed in terrible pain, but not the kind that she was referring to and certainly not the kind that she could fix.

This was the first time I realized that I was rather alone in my grief.  I had become a member of this "secret club" that no one wants to be a part of.  Miscarriages happen to 1 in 4 women, yet no one ever talks about them.  It's almost taboo.  In fact, they don't even advise pregnant woman to announce they're expecting until they've successfully reached the 12-week mark.  (As if the loss of a baby before that time would be any less sad or easy to just shrug off.)

A week later, the pathology results confirmed that I was indeed the unfortunate 1 out of 2,000 women to experience a partial molar pregnancy, which was not only the cause of fetal demise, but also meant that I was at risk for an even more rare, potentially rapidly growing, cancer.  Again, I felt like I had to put aside grieving the loss of my baby, to focusing all of my energy on staying optimistic and strong for my husband, my two boys, and my family.  The past 6 months have been filled with frequent lab draws and doctor visits.  Thankfully, things continue to move in the right direction in terms of my own health.  And as they do, I've noticed the feelings of grief over my miscarriage return more frequently, especially as the due date drew near.

So, I am sad now.  I am especially sad today.

Today, I will cry for him or her, on what could have been their birthday.
I will cry for my husband, as he grieves in his own way.
I will cry for the younger sibling Alex and Vinny do not get to have.
I will cry for the fact that some babies get born and some babies don't,
and for every single woman out there who has felt the agony of  an "almost".

So often we try to make people feel better by minimizing their pain,
by telling them that
"it will get better" (because it will), that
"it wasn't meant to be" (because that is obvious), that
"it was for the best" (because that is simply just not true), and that
"there are worse things in the world" (because there certainly are),
but that's not what I actually needed.

What I actually needed was for someone to tell me that it was/is okay to hurt, because it mattered.
My baby mattered.
Because that, m'loves, is the underlying fact -
I had a baby, and my baby died.

And there are no words in any human language to adequately describe how that feels.

Miscarrying, for me, is a unique kind of sadness.  Not the kind where you immediately start crying and feel like you may never stop (though those sensations come and go), but more like a sadness that stuns and instantly overwhelms the entire body, leaving your heart aching and insides hollow.  It's a feeling of guilt.  A feeling of uncertainty, unsure of which pain is worse - what had just happened or all that never will?  It's trying to navigate from the feelings of elation in finding out you're expecting (and all the planning and dreaming that ensues) to the pains of despair of suddenly having it all taken away.  Miscarriage is a sadness that leaves you exhausted, and to this day, has the ability to permeate the mind... the "what if's" sometimes preventing me from sleeping soundly at night.

Most days, I feel like a buoy,
bobbing up and down...
Sometimes floating strong against the wind and current,
other times dipping beneath the surface of the water.
But, no one sees me struggle.
...Because it is taboo - no one asks and I, like so many others, don't speak of it.

Yet, while sad, I assure you that I am not broken.
I am lucky to have a strong faith and an army of wonderful people in my life.
I am recovering, one day at a time...
finding the beauty in the pain, and weaving it into my life.
And mostly, because of my amazing husband and two beautiful boys, I am able to keep my chin up, my heart hopeful, and carry on.

Whether it be miscarriage(s), infertility, or the unfathomable stillborn or loss of an infant,
I know that there is a woman out there reading this,
with tears streaming down her face,
because she is a part of this same stupid "club."

So, while it may feel like it at times,
please know, my fellow "angel mama,"
you are not alone.

 ~ xoxo

~images via, skakieborgunwall.tumblr, @pregnancyandinfantloss on instagram ~

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