September 22, 2013

Once Upon a Time... We Were Going to Have a Baby

"And it happened just like that. There's nothing anybody could do. It isn't fair, there's no reason, but if we start asking why, we'll go crazy."
- Sleepless in Seattle

There is no easy way to say this.

Once upon a time, a time not so long ago, I was pregnant. Patrick and I were going to have a baby together. Words cannot describe the joy that came with the pregnancy, nor the ways in which we grew together in love. That dream-come-true came crashing down upon us far too soon as we struggled to persevere through the most difficult time of my life and, most certainly, of our marriage. We lost that baby, due to no fault of our own, for reasons that are beyond either of us.

I was heartbroken. I am still heartbroken. But I have a story to share, a voice that needs to be heard, a memory that longs to be drawn out of the shadows. I am tired of suffering in silence.

"Because the only thing worse than losing something that meant the world to you is pretending that you lost nothing."

This is my story.
 ~ ~ ~

[Mother's Day] May 12, 2013:
The anticipation was going to make me burst. As I sat in my chair next to my husband at church, I was roasting hot, sweating, and super uncomfortable - almost bloated feeling. My very-pregnant friend, Chelsea, sat on the other side of me as our pastor began addressing the mothers and mothers-to-be in our congregation; he also addressed the women who have struggled to have children for one reason or another, the women who have lost children in some physical, emotional, or spiritual way, and those who suffered the loss of their mothers that have passed on or are/were never the mothers that their children needed them to be. For the record, I have always appreciated him doing so. My thoughts were racing as I tried to stay focused, but I had this feeling, this instinct, this desperate hope that was nagging at me - the feeling, instinct, hope that I was pregnant. Patrick didn't know anything about my inner dialogue that morning - no one knew; only my God in heaven had any idea what was going on in that brain of mine:
I'll buy some tests on Tuesday. I have to wait until at least Tuesday. I will have completely missed it by then.
But it's probably just thrown off because of stress. 
But maybe. I hope so. Oh, God, please, let me be pregnant, but help me not be too discouraged if I'm not. But I really hope so. 
Don't be silly. I'm probably not. 
But I hope I am.

We went out to a quick lunch at Jason's Deli with Chelsea and her husband, Evan, before rushing off to do a very informal Mother's Day Harry Potter watch party with my mother and brother. While we sat at the table, munching on our delicious and ginormous sandwiches, discussing the most recent baby-item additions to their nursery, Chelsea asked me a question - one that I've heard so many times:
"When do you think you guys will start trying?" she inquired.

Patrick and I looked at each other, silently discussing whether or not we should share what we had only recently discussed face to face.

"Well, I have to graduate first, but we're thinking of starting to try in the Fall. It will probably take us a little while based on my family history, on my mom's and grandmom's losses, but probably in the Fall."

Sometime late that afternoon, I made an excuse about having to go to Sprout's for apples; I also secretly went to Target and purchased a box of pregnancy tests... just two tests inside. No need to get crazy. I probably wasn't pregnant anyway.

[Monday Morning] May 13, 2013:
The first day of the week. The first day of my online class, American Fiction since WWII. The day that I just couldn't take it anymore. I woke up bright and early after yet another night of crazy dreams and anxiously waited in bed for Patrick to leave for work - if I had popped out of bed like I had wanted to, Patrick would have definitely paused and pondered what in the world was the matter with me... I don't pop out of bed at 7am for anything. As soon as I knew he was gone, I forced myself to make and eat the breakfast for which I had no appetite, sans coffee. I piddled around the house as long as I could before I couldn't take it anymore.

I took a pregnancy test and let it sit on the bathroom counter while I went to wash the dishes - a task that would force me to be busy for the right amount of time. I came back to a sight that I feared I would never be blessed enough to see: double lines.

I grabbed the test and, with tears in my eyes, I walked around the house in a complete daze. I recited to myself, "Really?? Really?!" in an almost whisper, over and over and over again. The smile on my face was full of joy and shock at the same time, but the fact of the matter was that I was beyond thrilled. I knew this was big. I knew that I would want a few pictures to document this moment in my life. Still in my jammies but my face hastily made up, I took a single selfie. I never got to share that picture until writing this post.

I simply couldn't believe it. A few hours later, I took another test, just to be sure that it wasn't a fluke.
Nope. No fluke. Definitely pregnant! Best. Surprise. Ever.

Oh my gosh. I get to tell Patrick!
After the initial shock wore off, I got to work figuring out how best to tell the love of my life, the father of this teeny tiny being inside of me (woah), that he was going to be a daddy - that we were going to have a baby.

[Monday Afternoon] May 13, 2013:
I plotted and schemed to the best of my abilities - I am a terrible liar but I love creating surprises. It was one of the most gorgeous days that I had seen in Oklahoma in a very long time, so I made an excuse that I wanted us to go to Mesta Park (our favorite little park in the middle of the city) later on and just enjoy the weather and have some cupcakes, maybe read or play a bit of Backgammon (although I knew that it would never come to that). Patrick wanted to go over his lunch break, but I convinced him that it wasn't long enough to do the day justice; really, I just wanted to make sure that we weren't rushed after telling him the news. I purchased two cupcakes from Cuppies & Joe, found a card that was suitable and filled it out; the contents were extremely personal but I told him how blessed I felt to be married to him, how proud I was of all of his hard work, etc., and below the signature, I told him via postscript to flip the card over, as that was where I shared the news with him.

After Patrick got home from work, I had dinner ready to go (that almost never happens) so we wouldn't miss the best of the evening sitting in the house. We ate dinner and headed over, and I tried to conceal the little gift bag that only concealed a single card - you see, my dear husband's birthday was on the 10th of May, mere days before, so I pretended like it was a late birthday present.

"It's kind of a late birthday present," I said to him as we settled onto our nearly 30-year-old Mexican blanket. I let him read the card with ridiculous amounts of anticipation as I tried to keep my cool, letting him think that the surprise gift was in the brown packing paper gift bag instead of inside of me.

The goofball misread the postscript and started to close up the card. "Turn the card over, silly! There's something on the back!" I teased.

As he read those words that held so much, I watched his face. Patrick got very serious (not surprising). As he looked up at me, his eyes large and inquisitive, he searched my face for even the slightest trace of jesting, trying to discern whether or not his wife was playing a big fat joke on him. Even with tears threatening to spill over the brim of my eyes, his reaction was absolutely hilarious from my point of view. For the life of me, I cannot recall the words he said to me, somehow asking me if those words were true, if I was really pregnant. I just smiled and nodded as the tears began to flow.

Those are some of the most beautiful moments that I have ever experienced thus far. We smiled, hugged, cried, kissed, laughed, prayed, and sat in awe as we realized that our lives had changed forever.

[Thursday] June 6, 2013:
Somehow, nearly a month had passed since we found out the wonderful news but had decided to keep it a secret until entering the second trimester. That's what most people do, so we decided to follow suit. I loathe getting too much attention (if you were involved in our wedding at all, you definitely know that), so keeping it confidential was the easy move, although we were bursting to tell the people closest to us.

The day of my 26th birthday, Patrick and I were helping dear friends prepare for their wedding the next day in Kansas. We had yet to tell Zach (the groom) and David (a groomsmen in both the Rider and Womack weddings) because we most certainly did not want to take any attention away from Zach and Kaylee on their Big Day, but it was killer not having Patrick's two closest friends know the biggest news of our lives when we were all together anyway.

I was a mere two days away being 8 weeks pregnant on this day. What a wonderful birthday present! As the day progressed, I grew increasingly tired and a bit irritable; I was super bloated and trying not to let anyone notice that I was moving a bit slower than normal, and it had become customary that fatigue knocked me down for the count every afternoon around 3:00. We set up for the wedding all afternoon, had the rehearsal, and continued setting up well into the night. During the rehearsal, I was pretty much alone and very stand-offish as I was just about the only person there that wasn't actually in the wedding in some way.

At some point, an acquaintance came up to me and we got around to small-talking, discussing what was up-and-coming in our lives. She asked me the question that I knew I was going to get during this wedding with the eager look of anticipation in her eyes:

"Are you guys going to start having babies soon?" she asked as she smiled.

I answered with the only answer I had been able to come up with - it was truthful but still held our secret captive: "I have to graduate first," I explained.

And just like that, I kept secret the most wonderful news that I could ever share. And I would do it again and again before I wished that I hadn't.

[Saturday] June 7, 2013:
The next day, I had a bit of spotting that concerned me. I reassured myself that it was probably just because I had been moving so much that day; it seemed to increase every time I was overactive and I tried to convince myself that it was nothing to worry about. So many women have minor bleeding during pregnancy and, while it isn't normal, the doctors say that it is the most common abnormality during pregnancy. After all, this had happened once or twice already and everything was still going well. Still, I couldn't let go of the idea that something would go wrong.

During the day of the wedding, I tried not to let it worry me as I enjoyed the celebrations, the lovely weather, and the wonderful company of dear long-time friends. I also tried not to let my bloated belly show, to sit in as normal a position as possible, and not to rub and/or hold my little belly as I had quickly grown accustomed to doing. It was torture not telling some of my dearest friends about the little miracle that I was blessed with, but I simply would not take away that moment from Zach and Kaylee. It was their wedding day. No siree, I would not be that selfish.

During the wedding, David took a quick photo for the two of us. He remarked, "Wow. You can tell that you guys have been married for a while. You guys got in the perfect pose, like, right away." What I wanted to tell him was that 1) it just happens after you get married and have been together for 7.5 years and 2) we're so, so in love with each other and this baby, so we're bound to show it quickly.

[Saturday Morning] June 22, 2013:
Fast forward a couple of weeks. After we found out that we were pregnant, Patrick made it known that we would no longer be living in our craphole of a duplex after our lease was up; it simply was no place to raise a baby. I agreed to my sweet husband's decision and we were blessed with finding the most wonderful little rent house in a clean, quiet neighborhood with the most perfect bedroom for a nursery. We were sold. After a couple of weeks of trying to motivate myself to pack while being completely and utterly exhausted, moving day had finally arrived. Patrick and I stayed up ridiculously late boxing up what we could and eventually collapsed into hideaway bed in the living room, somewhere around 3:00am. 

Saturday morning came. I woke up on the cream-colored sheets to find that I had passed a massive clot sometime during my sleep. Honestly, it was about the size of my palm and scared the crap out of Patrick and me. You see, we had an appointment on the Monday prior to this - our first ever prenatal appointment. My doctor was concerned about my spotting and eventually diagnosed me with a threatened miscarriage. I was so very hopeful that she would say that everything seemed to be fine, but just to take it easy; I knew in my gut that she wouldn't respond that way, though. My heart nearly stopped and my stomach sank as the silence filled that tiny room. I remember her surveying my face, waiting for me to start crying, but I stayed strong for as long as I could, simply mumbling, "Okay," every few seconds. I was holding myself together until she looked at me intently, telling me with her eyes that it was very likely that I was going to lose this baby. I broke down. I could barely keep from screaming in agony as I headed to the lab, as the technician drew blood from my arm, as I watched a mother lovingly interact with her sweet little toddler in that very room, as Patrick led me out the door, down the stairs, across the parking lot, and into the car. 

The next few days were a bit hazy, hence why we were still packing come moving day. There was no ultrasound ordered, so there were still so many questions and feelings of uneasiness. I knew that something was wrong and refused to give in to my gut feeling that came to slap me in the face. Ever since the wedding, I had almost obsessively looked up information and statistics about missed miscarriages. I just knew that something was not right.

After the initial shock of finding the clot that had passed, we quickly decided that I would take it easy that day, which is a lot easier said than done when you're moving. We were so incredibly blessed to have a throng of loving friends and family to come help us move. My sweet friend Chelsea, who was still very pregnant, knew about the clot and was such a comfort to have around that day. Because she was so close to her due date and was there merely for moral support, we made the excuse to run to Krispy Kreme donuts as everyone was loading up the truck. Thankfully, that killed about an hour of time and I was able to skip out on a lot of the heavy lifting, which I definitely felt bad for doing. As the day progressed, so did the bleeding. It was torture keeping up appearances with family and friends that didn't know what was up while there were people in the same room who knew exactly what was happening. Time passed so slowly that afternoon as everyone made small talk after everything had been unloaded into the new house.

[Saturday Evening] June 22, 2013:
After all of our family and friends left, Patrick and I faced a tough decision. While I still felt fine, the bleeding had not stopped like we had hoped. I hated the thought of going to the ER and accumulating bills and it turn out that everything was fine. We called Evan, who happens to be a nurse, and asked for his opinion. On his advice, we took a deep sigh and headed to the hospital. It was a very quiet drive.

I was admitted to a room almost immediately, but it took eons for the doctor to come visit me. While I waited, I changed into a hospital gown; oddly enough, I left my panties on for fear of bleeding on those pristinely white sheets. I know that they make them white for bleaching purposes, but I just couldn't do it. I loathed the idea of knowingly defiling them. Almost as soon as we had arrived to the hospital, I started to feel a bit of cramping.

The nurses eventually visited me, the doctor finally came in, they got to work. They put me on a catheter without numbing me in order to get a urine analysis. Lord Almighty, that was painful. They drew lots more blood for lab work. The doctor gave me an ultrasound on an "ancient" machine but couldn't see much, so she ordered me to receive one from the ultrasound lab. I received another abdominal ultrasound and a transvaginal ultrasound. We got to see our little baby on the screen, but I knew that it was all wrong. There was no movement. The nurse's facial expression was not comforting. She kept assuring me that the sound I was hearing was fluids moving through my body, not a heartbeat. She looked and looked and looked for what felt like ages. She took dozens of pictures from all different angles. She told me that we were finished and called for me to be wheeled back to the ER.

My cramping had increased ten-fold. I remember being wheeled around on that all white bed, lying there completely helplessly, trying to convince myself that the pain wasn't as bad as I was making it out to be. It's just because I have nothing else to think about right now, I thought to myself as we waited for the nurse to arrive. Patrick was with me every step of the way, comforting me, holding my hand as the pain gradually became worse and worse. 

It was complete torture waiting for the doctor to come back to my room, but it didn't take long to get the "results" of the ultrasounds.

Our baby was dead. There was no heartbeat. It had not developed properly and had stopped growing a couple of weeks prior. They gave us our news, official paperwork describing the medical diagnosis - a missed miscarriage - and directions for the upcoming days, my prescription, and then discharged me; there was nothing to do aside from that. The doctor and nurses were sweet as could be and expressed their condolonces, but there was no reason for me to be there any longer. The nurses left the room and allowed me to dress and see ourselves out.

*Let me warn you - if you don't want to read about the not-so-lovely details, stop reading right now.*

Right before I got up to get dressed, I felt the release of a gush of fluid. As I sat up to get out of the bed, I realized that the fluid was both clear and bloody. I took off my panties and there was my little baby. I cannot even begin to tell you how I responded. I freaked. There, right in my hand, was our child. Dead and decaying inside my palm. Oh God, my poor, sweet husband. He was with me for every single second of this horrendous experience, and I know that the Lord blessed him with unwaivering strength and soundness of mind in these moments, because I possessed none of it. We called for a nurse right away. They asked me what I needed; I simply replied that we needed a nurse in the room right now. How could I possibly find the words to tell them what we needed assistance with? Once they arrived, even they seemed a bit out of sorts. They took my baby out of my hands, still lying there in my panties, and laid them both on the counter, unsure of the next step. The head nurse eventually took the tiny dead creature and put it in a plastic cup to send to the lab. They expressed their condolences again, and one sweet nurse gave me a pad from her personal stash and a handful of washcloths. Again, they left. I tried to stand up but was so weak, so dazed, so confused. I needed to get dressed and leave. As I stood and tried to put on my clothes, blood poured out of me. It kept coming. I had no idea what to do - if I sat, I was just bleeding all over those white sheets; if I stood, I bled all over the floor and had no possible way of clothing myself. I lost it, every ounce of reserve that I had left. Thank God for my sweet husband. By His grace, Patrick was able to keep himself together and get me clothed and out the door. I remember looking back into the room as we were leaving; I thought to myself how it looked like a crime scene - a bloody, tragic crime scene.

The days, weeks, and months to follow:
The next 24 hours were so physically and emotionally painful that I will never forget it. It felt like I was in labor, yet I had no baby to show for it, just some paperwork, prescriptions, and lots of blood and expelled bodily tissue. I refused to see anyone aside from my husband for 6 days. Once the worst of the physical pain and bleeding were over, it started to get easier. Breathing wasn't quite so difficult as it had been. For the longest time, I felt fairly numb to the whole thing and basically refused to let myself feel the emotions that were eating at my soul. 

It has been three months exactly since that horriffic day. As time passes, we have told more and more people about our loss, but it continues to feel like the entire thing was a dream that ended in a terrible nightmare.

Despite the tears, the confusion, and the anguish that have come and gone over the past few months, I continue to rely on the support of my wonderful husband, as well as my dear friends and family. But above all, the Lord has been so faithful to remind me that He is here, He knows the pain that I have gone through, and He cares.  We have seen so many beautiful gifts from this experiece, specifically the Lord working in and through the people around us, using and expanding the gifts of the Spirit that they have been given. I have held fast to the Word as my comfort in my most painful times of need, because, honestly, where else on Earth could I go that would provide satisfaction? I certainly have my moments of despair, but, for the most part, I am doing relatively well. I can take absolutely no credit for this, either. My God has sustained me. Our dear church family has lifted us up and interceded for us in prayer. My husband has always been and continues to be the most wonderful person in my life, and I am forever blessed to walk through the storms of life in this world with him by my side.

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."
- Psalm 46:1-3