Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Stranger in a Strange Land

Boy am I glad I'm back on here, because this story needs to be told, if only for my own sanity's sake.

Went to a play date this morning with H, with some newer friends we're getting to know in our still-new town. Let me start by saying for the record that in general I think these moms are very nice ladies who I like generally, and even the silliness I'm about to get into doesn't mean I don't like them. And yes, the Sunday School part of me feels guilty for what I'm about to say about them behind their back. Second, let me state that even though I knew there would be lots of new babies at this play date, I promise you that I went in with a perfectly happy attitude. It really didn't bother me or make me moody at all.

Things were going fine until the first warning sign: a highly casual, breezy conversation between the two women who just had babies four months ago about their plans to have yet another, and when they'll be pulling the goalie (my term, not theirs, though they may as well have used it). But of course no one will ever even think to call them greedy.

Then one of these same moms made a comment about how she won't be giving this baby rice cereal because of all the arsenic. I'm sure it makes me naive/ignorant/a bad mom that my first thought was, for Lord's sake, why don't you just put the kid in a bubble suit and be done with it. But my peevishness around her innocent comment sent off a warning flag: I could see that now that she'd revealed herself a smug fertile, everything she said was going to irritate me.

But the piece de resistance came when the other newborn mom started in about her recent delivery. Now we're coming up on the due date of the second pregnancy I've lost, so really, I don't want to hear about your delivery story at all. But what I really don't want to hear? Is that you were annoyed that the medical professionals involved in your birth were telling you what to do.

She was complaining that, because it was a VBAC, they were being all mean, telling her she needed to be -- horror of horrors -- monitored and all that silly stuff. That that meant she couldn't be all up and walking around, or getting in the tub. She said she finally said that if she couldn't get in the tub she was walking out of the hospital.

I just don't get these women. I mean, if that's your attitude, why even bother going to a hospital? Why not go squat in a field?

Oh, the hubris.

When someone made a comment about liking a certain local OB-GYN practice because they'd let you do whatever you want, I couldn't hold back any longer. I said, See and I don't want them to let me do what I want. I don't want to have an opinion. I want them to tell me what modern medicine says is going to keep my baby alive.

To which the other mom replied that yes, absolutely she agreed, she only wanted all those things because she felt it was best for the baby. Because her body was telling her everything was fine.

Her body was telling her.

Here's where my mind went. I thought of all my ladies who have done everything right and still have gone through hell in one form or another. I thought of how we can never take a single step toward a take-home baby for granted. I realized that having a baby isn't an equalizer between the fertiles and those of us who've had to pay more dues -- and even two "natural" pregnancies hasn't made me feel any more like one of them. That I can never be in a room with this kind of conversation and feel like anything but a stranger in a strange land.

Although I wouldn't mind a little take-my-fertility-for-granted in my life, the fact of the matter is, I would never want to be on the side of things where you think you know more about childbirth than people who go to medical school. Do these women tell pilots how to fly their plane? It was a very silly conversation and it made me feel lucky to have friends, both here and IRL, who, like me, tell their doctors that the only birth plan they're interested in is "let the doctor get the baby out in one piece."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Achy Breaky, Part II

Next up in my sad country ballad year: my rebound pregnancy, done gone.

After finally getting a zero beta from the phantom pregnancy that wouldn't quit, I felt refreshed. Like I'd been in the ring with a formidable opponent, and during a timeout had figured out the winning strategy I needed when I got back in. I was ready to try again, and even though I recognized the slight insanity of asking to do it all over again, I'd gotten a taste of what was possible and I wanted more.

When I got my two lines this time, I sort of just nodded my head. It was kind of a perpetual motion thing, an inevitable outcome, like yes, of course, Pregnancy tests are turning positive all over these days! Also my jeans had been unusually tight for a few days; either I was pregnant or I'd been overindulging in cheese and chocolate. It did cross my mind that maybe the hcg was leftover from the last one, maybe it had lingered there or perhaps spontaneously generated from some sort of bad-pregnancy sleeper cell hiding out in my uterus. My nurses assured me that was nuts, a thought only a scarred infertile girl would have (they said this all in the nicest of ways), and an initial level of 212 that more than doubled in 48 hours backed me off that ledge to accept the dumb luck of a back-to-back pregnancy. I didn't quite know how or why it had happened to me, finally, after everything I'd been through, but I embraced being a fertile myrtle. I am sorry to say that I broke out my baby name book.

I sat waiting for my first ultrasound in a room divided into two types: middle-aged women dutifully awaiting their annual mammograms and roundly pregnant 30-somethings looking bored, checking their watches, clearly stressing not over whether their babies were on their way to full-term status but whether they'd be out of there in time to...I don't know, make it back to work? Catch Ellen on TV? It was baffling to me how a pregnant person could sit there thinking of anything else but whether the ultrasound would make or ruin her day/year/life. Because that, my friends, is what infertility and pregnancy loss will do to a girl. I sat there in my blue-patterned doubled gown looking down at my flats, moving my legs in a desperate attempt to dispel the kinetic energy building in my body. I willed away preemptive tears, welling up repeatedly anyway.

Funny thing was, despite this Pavlovian anxiety response to being in that waiting room, I knew everything would look fine that day, that we'd see a heartbeat, that this pregnancy would look good. The hcg numbers looked too good and I felt pregnant. Which I know is a bunch of unscientific baloney, it sounds like reinventing history, like when women respond to online surveys saying they "just knew" the moment they got pregnant. But at the time it seemed significant.

It took all of three seconds for the ultrasound lady to confirm my suspicion, when that beautiful flicker suddenly flashed on the screen. If I never get another chance to be pregnant again, I'll hold on to this moment, when everything that seems significant in your life boils down to that 120 BPM rhythmic thump-thumping you can't stop watching. This was real. This was mine. This was happening. My cup runneth over.

My cautious glee was short lived: I measured a few days behind where I thought I should be. Cue the ominous music. I went upstairs to see my doctor, certain she'd say something cautious about being spectators on this one. She didn't. She swore up and down that it was fine, that because this was a natural conception my guesses were just that. She talked about where I'd deliver the baby. She made it feel real again.

And it kept feeling real until one afternoon, while H was napping, when I lay on the couch feeling not quite right, then got up and felt the gush. I thought, no way.

Not now.

Please no.

When I saw it, I got angry. I watched myself from above, another personal tragedy unfolding, and what will become of our heroine this time? Will she survive another loss or is this the one that does her in? I seethed expletives. I called the doctor.

My OB's office was less than sympathetic, and this was the beginning of the end of my relationship with them. They told me, clinically, to just come in the next morning, since as I was aware, there was little they could do for me that day anyway.

I did what I was told, because I knew she was right, and pretending that rushing in that afternoon would change anything about the outcome just seemed sad to me. So I spent the rest of that afternoon and night monitoring the amounts of blood coming from me. It seemed to be lightening, which felt encouraging. Maybe it could possibly be like the early bleeding I had with H. Maybe I was just a bleeder. Yeah.

At the ultrasound the next morning, I hid my face in my hands. I thought about what it would be like to see a dark screen, no flicker. I thought, there should be some ceremony when that happens, they should put a cover down over the screen and say a prayer. But there was a flicker. It felt like a miracle. They sent me on my way.

The next day was relatively uneventful. The bleeding continued, spotting on and off. I spoke with my doctor. She was reassuring. I felt optimistic.

The next day, Saturday, started about the same. But by mid-morning, the bleeding was gaining momentum. There was force behind it. It felt more like an event. By afternoon there was no mistaking what was happening. I pitied myself. And then I was scared. You know, they expect us to manage ourselves, we strivers for and losers of babies. They want us to inject medications. We have to know what questions to ask. We have to school up on hcg beta levels and embryo quality and ovulation induction. But at some point, how can we judge the line between "normal miscarriage bleeding" and "needs urgent D&C" with accuracy? You tell me, doctor.

So we schleped our two-year-old son to the emergency room, where we sat for hours and tried to keep him from touching everything. Where we tried to keep him happy and act like everything was normal. "Pay no attention to that sobbing griever in the corner. Look over here!" He was in the room, although on the other side of a curtain, when the radiologist confirmed that it was gone.

I'd believed in this one. I thought, when I miscarry, there are signs. My hcg is off. There's no heartbeat right away. I thought that's how my story went. We had a heartbeat.

Sometimes, six months later, it still catches in my throat, the grief, a terrible thought. The other day, as I drove H to a play date, this one: A heart stopped beating inside of me. It lingered for a while, then faded away. I looked back at H and smiled bravely.

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