Thursday, March 27, 2014

Stop All the Clocks

Around every corner is a new grief. A fresh loss, a new way to feel the tragedy. When he left, a whole world went with him. Scenes from what might have been keep playing in my mind's eye, like an outtakes reel, the alternative ending. A baby boy's coat cuts my breath. The realization that they will do an autopsy sickens.

What is it that keeps us going when our hearts and minds wish the world would stop turning around us? Even as I question whether I can keep taking in air, imprisoned by incomprehensible pain, there is a distant voice that whispers, "hold on." 

I think it must be Grace. I just wish I didn't need it right now. Wish I didn't have to prove I am strong enough to get to the other side of this.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What Came Before

The ultrasound -- the anatomy scan -- was last Tuesday. It was supposed to be today. We moved it up a week because a scary test result told us to. I guess this was our clue.

At my 16-week OB visit, just two short weeks ago, I waited an hour for a five-minute visit with the doctor. She told me to stop worrying about miscarriage. We scheduled a c-section. She listened to the galloping heartbeat. It was the last time we'd hear it.

She asked me if my MFM was doing an AFP (alpha feto-protein) test. Since this was a PGD embryo, we'd decided not to do the chromosomal testing. But the AFP was for neural tube defects. So I agreed to it, and although I always welcome something new to google, I didn't think a single thing of it. Until I got a call, late Friday afternoon, from my MFM.

The call was odd because the OB had run the test, but it turned out my OB had called my MFM about the result -- which didn't seem like a good sign. She told me my AFP was high. How high, I said. She launched into some explanation about medians and multiples, that mine was 3.6 and they want to see below 2.5, and I wanted to scream that I am an English major and I do not speak Math. By then, I was shivering like a small dog, which is my body's natural response to hearing possibly scary news about my baby at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, when there is nothing to do but google and worry all weekend.

I was told it could be a neural tube defect, like Spina Bifida, or another anatomical defect. Or a placenta issue. Or absolutely nothing. I researched the heck out of it. Learned about Multiples of Median. Read medical journal articles and MFM texts. I found out that early bleeding from a subchorionic hematoma or placental lakes, both of which I had, could contribute to a high AFP. That felt hopeful, but also a little too easy. I chose to ignore the part about high AFP pointing to fetal demise.

I couldn't sleep Monday night. By the time I walked into the ultrasound on Tuesday, I thought we'd hear some kind of news. Maybe some correctable stomach issue, or a minor form of Spina Bifida (which seemed incredibly unlikely given my religious folic acid consumption). Maybe, and this seemed much more likely given my history, a placental issue that could be scary but somehow manageable. Here's the paradox: Although I always, always expected, every time I walked into any appointment, that they might tell me the worst had happened, the truth is that last Tuesday, no heartbeat was the last thing I thought we'd hear.

The doctors seemed surprised that I was so anxious about the high AFP. It was confusing, because they told me it was probably nothing, even as they felt the need to alert me before the weekend, when we couldn't verify anything until the following week. Maybe they didn't get it because these doctors are new to me and my story -- they haven't previously been along for the tough slog, when too many times I have fallen squarely on the wrong side of the odds in my favor.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

F You, Universe

My milk is coming in.

I am told to bind with two sports bras, use frozen peas or ice in my bra, and take Motrin. Apparently the drug they used to give women to turn off the milk made for no one ended up giving some of those women strokes.

I don't know if I can ever trust anyone or anything again -- can ever accept that there is real beauty, or pleasure, without pain -- knowing that such a betrayal can be allowed to exist in this world.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Fetal Demise

I wanted her to stop scanning. I almost stood up and had her start over. It seemed like if she did, maybe something would change and she wouldn't say the words I knew were about to come out. Maybe we'd stop hurtling toward the cliff we were all about to fall off, together. It didn't look right. The screen was still. She looked too long.

I said, "Is there a heartbeat?"

She said, she gasped, "No."

And even though I expected her to say it, the room turned, slowed. It was a dream, a reel of film. It couldn't be real life.

I said, "Take H. out of here." I begged her to look again. Even though I knew she wouldn't see anything different. She ran and got the doctor. I measured 16 weeks 6 days. It should have been 17 weeks 5 days. It happened sometime late last week, she said. She couldn't tell me why.

I let them scan my poor baby some more. I let them look for clues. And even though my most searing pain was for my boys, the one that was lost and the ones in the waiting room, I knew we were in it together, he and I. Because when he died, a part of me went with him.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Eating for Two

This is what it's like to be pregnant: You are governed by the whims of your body, every minute of every day. You might be sitting there, minding your own business like a normal person, and then you are gripped with the sudden, visceral understanding that you must have a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup right this very minute, or someone is going to pay. Never mind that you just ate your first lunch an hour ago. You will literally knock over loved ones who innocently stand in the path between you and that grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. But then you decide that the husband you almost knocked down on your way to the kitchen makes better grilled cheese sandwiches than you do, so you threaten to cry if he won't make you one. And can I get an amen on this: No husband wants to deal with a crying wife.

So he makes you the sandwich and you inhale your "second lunch" in two seconds flat. And you feel better, but you know that is short lived. Soon enough, you'll be hungry again and you'll have to think really hard about what you want to eat, because there are only approximately five things on the planet that you like to eat right now. Right now, these things for me are: the aforementioned grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup combination, egg salad, chicken salad, Chipotle burrito bowls and the kind of salad you get from a pizza place, with the mix of iceberg and dark lettuces and the light Italian dressing you can somehow only procure from Italian restaurants and pizza joints. I could drink that dressing right now. Oh and, because I love to be a cliche, pickles. Little gherkin pickles mostly, especially the little gherkins called cornichons, whose name makes me feel fancy and French, and slightly less disgusting when I eat the entire jar in one sitting. Okay, that is an exaggeration. Most of the jar.

The other day, I ate two entire boxes of Annie's shells and cheese. I wish I were kidding. I had one box and then I realized it hadn't even made a dent, so I made another. I told myself I would just have a few more bites, but that was a farce: I inhaled the entire box faster than I had the first, I think because it seemed like if I ate the whole box quickly, it would be like it didn't happen. Believe it or not, that actually made sense to me at the time. Anyway I ate these two boxes and I felt exactly as you'd imagine I would feel after inhaling two boxes of pasta with rehydrated cheese. With respect to Annie's, I cannot recommend this on a regular basis.

The good news is, I also crave fruits and vegetables. This is a statement that, were it coming out of the mouth of someone like, say, pregnant Gisele, would fill me with irrational rage. But it's really, truly true. Sometimes the cravings I have are for kale chips or roasted broccoli, or an orange or mango. So at least there's that along with the kid food (I also crave bagel pizzas).

And although I am stuffing my food folder on Pinterest with sinful looking dessert pins with the full and real intention of going on a dessert bender after delivery, for right now I am using every iota of willpower I can muster in my Advanced Maternal Age bones to avoid processed sugar. Literally the only "treats" I have had since we did the transfer are bowls of Honey Bunches of Oats (the only cereal I've ever eaten in quantity without growing tired of it) and banana bread I make with less than half the called-for sugar (Have you ever made banana bread with this recipe? If not, please do it soon.). That's it. No chocolate. No nougat. No fun. I am trying to avoid the carb/hormone cycle of PCOS by cutting down sugar, just as I did with H., which is possibly mostly unnecessary, but I'm doing it anyway, for the same reason that I also switched to natural bath products (another post for another day). It's called taking things to the extreme, and I was born to do it.

So all in all, I'm eating when I'm hungry, and eating some good, some not so good, but I think the sum total of all of this (particularly reducing refined sugar) is that so far, all the weight I've gained in my 16 weeks of pregnancy is right in my little bump. I'm hoping I can keep this up -- I mean in the scheme of things, who cares, but bouncing back more quickly this time might be a nice little bonus.

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