I'm sure this is a no brainer, but I suppose I should disclose to you before you begin that this isn't going to be a funny, opinionated, in-your-face story about shitty kids or difficult teenagers. Instead, it is the sad story of a baby I really wanted that is never going to be, and how I very nearly lost my life trying to hang on to it.
Miscarriage. We hear this word so often that I don't think the weight of it ever hits those of us lucky enough to never have experienced such a thing. Miscarriage. If you haven't ever been through it, the word is paper thin. Something that just flies through the air, in one ear and out the other leaving behind a subtle thought of "Oh. I'm sorry." before moving on entirely. It isn't because we're cruel or heartless that this word is so baseless for those of us untouched by the tragedy. It's just that everyone knows someone who has had one. In short, it's just normal. And I suppose, medically speaking, it is. But in a mother's heart, this is not supposed to happen. There is nothing normal about losing your baby. And there is nothing normal about the things I saw and went through that day. The desire to hold on overcame rationality and as I lay there completely alone in the hospital all I could think was "What have I done?"
Ironically, the day I knew I was going to lose this baby was the very same day I met my new midwives; a Thursday. They were wonderful people and tried to reassure me that many women spot in the first trimester and go on to have beautiful full term babies, but I knew that this was different for me. It started out as pink staining in my underwear and progressively throughout that day changed to a light red blood. The fact that the midwives were unable to hear a heartbeat was only adding to my uneasiness, but by 7pm that evening it was still much less than a regular period and so I was hopeful... if only slightly. It was the following morning when I knew and finally began to accept what was happening. The staining looked more like the onset of a true period and that's something I just could no longer deny. I remember feeling sad and scared and wanting Mark to stay home from work. But less than 2 weeks later I had plans to go to Chicago to see all of my friends, and with the amount of time he needed to take off from work to allow me to do that, his departure that morning was inevitable. So I waited. Waited for it to happen; for the bleeding to worsen, the cramps to give in and, worst of all, I waited to see my tiny 12 week old baby. But that would not happen on Friday. It would not happen on Saturday. It would not happen on Sunday.
By Monday morning I had decided that since my body had given birth 8 times, this was going to be pretty easy for me. Or, that the baby inside of me had died at such a very early age that a majority of it had been absorbed back into my system and that, again, this was going to be pretty easy for me. Nevertheless, Mark and I let Taren stay home from school that day as an extra set of hands with the little kids and... just in case. Looking back I can't decide if it was a good thing for her to be there, or if the events of that day have traumatized her in ways she can't even talk about yet.
The morning was like any other; breakfast, school, naps, etc. I lounged around a lot watching tv with Taren, and tried not to lift Camber or Avion except when necessary. At noon, Avion went down for his nap and I plopped back on the couch to try and catch one myself. It was about 30 minutes later when all hell broke loose.
Fair warning: things get graphic from this point on.
I felt something coming out. No pressure, no pain, more like something was falling out from the inside. I hurriedly ran up the stairs to the bathroom but was unable to make it in time. Things were streaming out of me, down my legs and onto the floor from the bottom of my sweat pants. When I finally made it to the bathroom and removed my clothes, I was shocked by what I saw. The blood was just everywhere. Wall to wall in pools on the floor. I soaked 4 towels and was going through pads at the rate of about 2 every minute. I was terrified. I screamed for Taren to bring my phone, telling her not look as she handed it to me through the doorway. She, of course, looked. I don't know what this did to her. My bathroom literally looked like the scene of a murder and I was slipping and sliding through my own blood. Now, I know what you're thinking. "Call 911!" and those, in fact, were the first words out of my mouth when Taren reached me. But something started to happen at that moment. Things seemed to be stopping. i knew I needed to call someone so i dialed Mark. "You have to come home right now! You have to come home!" He could hear the sheer panic in my voice and tried to calm me down. But unless you could see that room I was standing in, even the words "Murder scene" just sound like an exaggeration. Finally, Mark calmly told me to call my midwife and that he was on his way home. "Yes, I thought. Call Ellen."
Her voice was calm, yet curious. She asked me a few basic questions then, upon learning that I was home alone with little ones, she simply came over. I managed to bring myself to wipe a towel across the bathroom floor as the sight and smell of it were making me faint. Then, I locked the door from the outside, wrapped myself in a blanket that Taren gave me and waited. Waited for Mark to come home, for Ellen to arrive, for the bleeding to return. I could feel my heart racing in my chest.
Ellen sat by my side for 45 minutes. She walked with me every time I went to the bathroom and looked to make sure that all was ok. Though she agreed that the bleeding had been much more than usual, the fact that it was tapering off left her feeling good as Mark arrived to take over. By this time I was nearly asleep. I could hear her give him specific instructions on what would be considered an emergency, including loss of consciousness, then she kissed me on the forehead and left. I began to doze off.
It was about 40 minutes later when it all began again. This time with a vengeance. I could feel my insides slipping out of me and the blood was simply everywhere. Each time I came out from the bathroom I would just lie in a ball in the hallway and pant. Now I know what you must be thinking here. "What the fuck, girl? Go to the hospital!" And looking back, I should have already been there. I can't tell you the exact reasons I was still holding on, but I do remember wondering if this was normal? Was this just what women go through? I was beginning to feel quite a lot of pain at this point and finally, after a long time on the toilet, the inevitable happened. I came out, looked Mark in the eye and said "I'm down", and fainted. Mark dialed 911.
The first indication that things were really serious was when they took my blood pressure. I can't remember the exact reading that first time, but I do recall all of us being alarmed. The EMTs had a better game face than I did. I was strapped to a gurney in my living room and wheeled out of my back yard. neighbors were lining the street hoping, I am certain, that one of my little ones did not emerge. As the back doors to the ambulance slammed shut I could hear my husband tell me he loved me and one of my kids scream "Mommy!"
The ride to the hospital, complete with flashing lights and sirens, was quick. The EMT working on me did a small battery of tests, put in an IV and informed me that I am not diabetic. "Um.. ok", I thought. My heart rate was weak and rapid and my blood pressure was falling. I did not bleed the entire time I was in the ambulance, but I knew it was coming. My entire body was shaking from head to toe. Was I going into shock?
We arrived and I was quickly given a room and more tests. The blood pressure cuff and saturation thingy they put on your finger were constantly going with loud beeps heard outside my door when something was a miss. I hated those beeps. I was now informed they were planning to do a pelvic exam as the nurse wheeled in a small table with a bunch of medieval instruments on them. "Kill me", I thought. And then it began again. More blood, more of things I never want to see again coming out of me. They wouldn't let me get up and go to the bathroom so I was passing things right there on the gurney and occasionally into a bedpan. The nurse had to change me constantly and that damn blood pressure machine kept yelling at the nurses to come check on me.
When the doctor arrived to do the pelvic he took one look a the blood, now dripping on the ground and said "Nevermind. Get her to ultrasound and prep the OR." I was in panic.
The most terrifying moment came when I got to ultrasound. My blood pressure crashed and I lost consciousness. When I came to I tried to ask the doctor what had just happened to me, but nothing coming out of my mouth was audible. My brain knew what it wanted to say, but the sounds I was making were like that of a person severely handicapped. I thought "This is it. I'm having a stroke and i'm going to die right here all alone." I was absolutely terrified. After about 60 seconds of not being able to speak my English began to return. Slowly at first; my jaw feeling heavy like someone had just unclamped it and my muscles were getting used to movement again. There was a lot of commotion in the room now and they were pushing the fluids in to me as fast as they could. My blood pressure began to climb. i heard the doctor talking about a seizure.
The ultrasound was finished and now, from all the pushing on my abdomen, I was in severe pain. Back in the ER, I was given a very powerful drug and told that before I go to surgery I needed a blood transfusion. How did I get here? What have I done to myself? I thought about my family, my children, the baby I do have. I wanted Mark, my Mom, a friend. I wanted anyone. They brought in the paperwork for my consent and I frighteningly signed away my rights to sue if I caught anything including HIV. It felt like such a big decision, but it also felt obvious. It took longer than you might imagine to get the blood going in my veins. I was typed a second time and there was a whole lot of formality as two nurses came in and read me all of the instructions, repeating numbers on the bag back and forth to ensure they didn't give me something that might kill me right then and there. All the while, the nurse is changing my robes and sheets. I could not imagine they could get it in me as fast as it was leaving. At this point I actually wanted the baby out. I just wanted to survive this.
I was in full blown hemorrhage as they wheeled me up to the OR. My blood pressure was stable and I had been given a second transfusion when it finally happened. In the elevator between floors 1 and 2 at Alameda hospital, my baby arrived.
It was sad and tiny and so unmistakably human. I leaned over the sheets and looked down at the little body just lying there so lifeless and wondered is it a boy or a girl? I met my baby on a hospital gurney in a bedpan surrounded by blood instead of warm and nestled in my arms 6 months later. And it all hit me. The sadness of this death. The death of chubby cheeks and a bald head. The death of Christmas mornings, ballet recitals or little league. The death of hearing "Mama" for the first time or helping learn how to ride a bike. It was ideas and plans that lie in that bedpan that night. It was hope and love and desire. It was me and Mark. Right there in front of me. It hadn't died a long time ago, that much was obvious. This was recent. What did I do to cause this? What happened? This wasn't normal. Nothing about this miscarriage was normal. At that moment 2 simple things existed. This was my child and this wasn't normal.
They whisked me into the OR and knocked me out. When I came to it was over. The baby was gone. In every way I could imagine. I could feel it. The emptiness in my womb; the space where he or she once lived. Finally, Mark managed to make it to my side and held my hand, but I had already endured the worst of it alone. I hoped I could forgive him for that. Just a short time later I was actually allowed to leave. This surprised me, but I guess once you're out of the woods, you're out of the woods. My girlfriend who is a nurse feels they gave me poor care, and I am inclined to agree, but what does it matter now? I was glad to be alive. I was glad the ordeal was over. I was glad to be going home.
I want to close with this. I am ok now. Physically I am doing fine. Emotionally, I have my moments. I feel very empty at times. I do have a profound belief that something was wrong with that baby and that The Universe/God knows best. That thought does give me some comfort. But other thoughts I still have to work to suppress. Did I cause this being the biggest one. I want to thank you for allowing me to share this story here and for listening. I hope that it can offer some comfort to others who have been there and perhaps even guide someone to make decisions other than I did that day. As for having more children, i am simply not going to say right now. So many people have told me they think I should never get pregnant again, but this is a decision for Mark and I to make and no one else. If we ever do decide, I hope you will only support us. This is our journey and we love it!