Saturday, December 8, 2007

Gaining By Losing

Yesterday was a day of mixed emotions for me. I am so happy to have my boys and that they are all healthy. But it was the day that I found out about the baby I lost - Baby A. I tried to finish writing this yesterday, but had a hard time and decided it would be easier to finish today.

I remember the day so vividly. It was like I was a young child again and able to remember the color of the floor and the curtains. I can still smell the room and picture the nurses and doctors that I saw that day. I was 18 weeks and 3 days pregnant with twins after over two years of fertility treatments and many miscarriages. Brian Sr. was in Florida on a business trip, so my Mom, Brian, and Sean came with me to my ultra sound. I was so excited to see the babies again. My last ultra sound had been at 13 weeks and all was great. My Mom was still trying to talk me into finding out the sexes.

I went to check in and noticed that one of the ultra sound techs for the day also worked part time at my fertility clinic. I asked the receptionist if she could do my ultra sound. They said she was with a patient and I might have to wait a few minutes longer. This was fine with me. We sat in the waiting room chatting about Christmas and plans for the babies. Brian and Sean had to try out the bathroom and were flipping through magazines. Nickelodeon was on the TV and they would occasionally glance up at it.

It was finally my turn and the ultra sound tech immediately recognized me. I felt so happy and so lucky, I just knew that I would get extra pictures. I laid back on the table and pulled up my shirt and gave my belly a rub. The tech squirted warm gel on my belly and placed the wand on it. I was so excited and nervous that I was almost shaking. She scanned around quickly and then started to take measurements of the first baby. I remember asking, "Are they still on top of each other, like bunk beds?" She said, "I am just working on this baby right now." At the time I thought it was a little strange but didn't really think too much about it. I was too focused on looking at my baby.

Brian and Sean were quickly losing interest and found a puzzle in one of the drawers in the room. I remeber that it was missing a piece. They were taking the pieces out that were shaped like cars and boats and playing with them. They were fighting over a boat piece that they both wanted. My Mom was trying to watch them and the ultra sound at the same time.

Everything was going great and the baby was measuring a little big for gestational age. I smiled at this because Brian and Sean did too. When she took the femur (leg bone) measurement, the baby wouldn't hold still. She kept trying to move the wand around and get the right angle. While she was doing this, the baby moved one of its legs. My heart raced, did I just see what I think I saw? I didn't say anything at the time but from having two boys, I know boy parts when I see them! It was a perfect view right up between his legs. I didn't want to know the sex and was a little disappointed to have the surprise ruined. But, I smiled at the thought of another cute little boy and wondered if I should now find out the sex of the other baby.

The tech smiled at me and took the wand off my belly. She said she had to go and ask the doctor a question. My heart sank and it was all I could do to keep from crying, I didn't want Brian and Sean to see me upset. I laid there for over twenty minutes waiting for the doctor. Why had she only scanned one baby? I knew in my heart that there was something wrong with the other one. I kept telling my Mom, "I know something is wrong. I think I lost the other baby." We were both confused and I hoped for the best.

The doctor came in, picked up the ultrasound wand and scanned around for a few minutes. My Mom took the boys and waited on the other side of the curtain, I could still hear them talking about the puzzle. I was watching the screen and immediately started to cry. He didn't need to say a word. I saw how much smaller Baby A was and that it wasn't moving at all. He told me that Baby A had stopped growing a few weeks back and had no heartbeat.

How could this be? Everything was fine at 13 weeks, I had made it out of the first trimester. All the blood work and ultra sounds had been perfect. I had been so careful - no artificial sweeteners, no hot dogs or lunch meat. No soft cheese or caffeine or deli salads. I had taken no chances. I didn't know what to do or what to say. It was like time had frozen and I just stared at the doctor, my eyes so full of tears that the world was blurry.

Then he went back to scan the other baby and told me that there was an Echogenic foci or white spot on the other baby's heart. It is a soft marker for Down Syndrome, but can also be nothing. This is especially true if there are no other markers. The NT ultrasound I had at 12 weeks had shown no signs of anything being wrong and the blood work showed odds for Down Syndrome to be less than average for my age. Even though the odds were with me, I was still worried. I had just lost one baby and now would spend the rest of the pregnancy worrying about the other.

The doctor told me I could make an appointment with a genetic counselor but I didn't want to. Even if the baby did have Down Syndrome, I wanted him. I would love him just as I did Brian and Sean. I held myself together as best I could and gathered up the boys to go home. I was so upset that I forgot to grab the pictures. We got all the way to the parking garage and I had to go back. This was hard, to go back. I went to the desk and said that I had forgotten my pictures. Another tech walked me back to the room but the pictures were gone. I felt myself start to panic and get upset all over again.

She saw how upset I was and told me that the other tech was with another patient. If it was okay with me, she would do another ultra sound and take some more pictures. It was so nice of her to do this for me and I relaxed a little. I really needed to have those pictures. I told her that I didn't really want to know the sex of the baby but I thought I had seen that it was a boy in my first ultra sound. She asked if I really wanted to know and I said yes. She confirmed that it was a boy and I got a great picture proving it.

On the way out, I saw the tech that did my first ultra sound and she told me that I forgot my pictures. She had been nice enough to save them for me and went to get them. I was right about getting plenty of pictures! I gathered them up and tucked them safely into my purse. I got into the elevator and had to look at them again on the ride down to the lobby.

I was so glad that my Mom had come with me. I don't think I could have safely driven home. I just sat and blotted my eyes while Brian and Sean chatted happily in the back seat. I tried to think positive and be happy for the baby that was still growing inside me. I loved him and the boys more than ever. On the way home, every time the baby moved it was both wonderful and horrible at the same time. One was kicking and one was not.

But, I think the hardest part was having to come home and tell people the bad news. There had been so much of it to give out on our journey to conceive a third baby. It was harder to tell the people who loved me than it was for me to hear it myself. My loved ones got a double dose of sadness. They were upset about the baby and also for me. It has to be so hard to see someone you love hurting so much and be powerless to help.

And to top it all off, Brian was over a thousand miles away. I went back and forth a few times about whether or not to tell him over the phone. I decided to tell him and he was at a loss for words. His manager told him that he could fly home, but I told him that there was really nothing he could do. He would not be gone much longer and I didn't mind some alone time to grieve.

A few days later, we were all in the car headed out to run some errands. I hadn't yet told the boys that we lost one of the babies and since I wasn't up to talking about it, I wasn't aware that Brian had told them. Brian Jr. was in the back of the van and said, "Mom one of your babies was sick and the heart beat stopped." This hit me like a slap in the face and uncontrollable tears flowed down my cheeks at a frenzied rate. I was unable to speak or move, all I could do was cry. I remember that he kept talking to me about it but I was physically unable to answer him. The tears and emotions had stolen my voice. Every time I gained a little control back and tried to speak, I was again overcome with muting sadness.

I was very grateful that he brought this up in the car. I think if he had said this to my face that I would have had to leave the room. I would have had no choice. The boys had seen me cry before, but I didn't want them to see me so upset that it scared them. Because of this, I did most of my crying in the shower or after they went to bed. For me, it really helped to let it out. I felt so much better after a good cry.

After a few weeks, I still couldn't talk about Baby A or the ultra sound or look at twins without crying. I was starting to wonder if the tears would ever stop coming. Nothing had ever affected me this deeply or for this long. It was strange to me and I didn't feel at all like myself. I am usually in better control of my emotions and it was hard to have them in control of me.

Another hard part were my casual acquaintances. I didn't see these people very often and didn't know them well enough to call about what had happened. I would run into them weeks and even months later and they would ask me how the babies were doing. Then I had to explain that we had lost one of the babies. It was like reliving the day all over again, and again, and again.

I had another ultra sound on December 27, at 21 weeks and 2 days. This was to check to see that the baby was growing well. It was very hard to go back to the hospital. Even though I was feeling movement all the time, I was so afraid that something had gone wrong. I was relieved to find out that Justin was growing perfectly and very healthy. Baby A was even smaller than before and barely visable. They told me that this is what would likely happen. The baby would continue to be reabsorbed into my body. By the time I delivered, there might not be anything there anymore. To me, this was good and bad. The good was that I wouldn't have to worry about Baby A at the birth and the bad would be that there would be no way to do testing to try to find out what went wrong.

I was 29 weeks and 3 days on February 22nd. I called my OB because I wasn't feeling well and wasn't feeling as many movements as I had before. She told me to go right to the hospital and have everything checked out. I was really scared and didn't feel any movement on the way to the hospital. It took everything I had to keep my composure. The thing I wanted to do most was scream, but I was afriad that if I started, I wouldn't be able to stop.

The nurse got me hooked up to a monitor right away and the heartbeat was so wonderful to hear. I don't think I have ever been as comforted by a sound as I was that day. Then she did a non-stress test (NST). I had to sit in a recliner and a machine tracked the baby's hearbeat and my contractions, if any. I had a button to push when I felt movement. They wanted to see the baby's heartrate increase with movement and then return to normal.

The nurse said that 29 weeks was early for an NST and that I might not see the results that I would with a baby farther along. As soon as I got hooked up to the monitor, it was like he had a soccer match in my belly. I was constantly pushing the button for movement. Justin was out to prove her wrong and already an over achiever. She said that he performed way above average for a 29-30 weeker!

I felt a little silly for coming in since there was no end in sight to his movements now. The nurse was so great and told me to come back anytime I was worried. She said stress wasn't good for me or the baby and I could call with questions any time of the day or night. After the NST, I got another ultra sound and it again confirmed that the baby was a boy. The fluid levels were great and he had definietly grown bigger. And I got another picture! I slept better that night than I had in long time.

Even after a few months I was still tearing up all the time. It was especially hard to hold back the tears when the boys would ask questions like, "Why did the other baby's heart stop beating?" or say things like, "Mom you used to have two babies." I know that they were just trying to understand what had happened and had no way of knowing that they were upsetting me.

Things got a little better in the weeks leading up to Justin's birth, I was so busy cleaning and planning that I didn't have time for much else. I thought of Baby A daily and even though the anger and hurt were slowly subsiding, I still wasn't able to talk about it without crying. On most days things were really great. But on others I would find myself taken back to that day and instantly tearing up.

It was very strange for me because I had come to terms with what had happened. But the tears and sadness seemed to appear out of nowhere. I really didn't feel sad all the time anymore and had taken time to grieve, but little things would still make my eyes water. I had no control over it. I was often taken by surprise as the emotions overwhelmed me. I would be happily playing with Brian and Sean or watching my belly jiggle as the baby kicked and punched, then out of nowhere the tears rolled down my cheeks.

For the longest time, it was the small stuff that was so hard to deal with. At one time I was so focused on losing the baby that I didn't realize how many different ways it would affect me later. It wasn't just the miscarriage that I had to endure. I would see twins and be sad. The boys would ask about the other baby again. A friend would ask how I was doing and I would cry. I had to take back some baby clothes that I had bought two of. I no longer needed a double stroller or a twins nursing pillow. We only needed to decide on one name. I would probably deliver in May and not April anymore. I didn't have to rearrange the nursery to accommodate two cribs. I didn't need the extra swing or bouncy seat or exersaucer that I had borrowed.

The night before my c-section was really hard. I was awake almost all night rubbing my belly and hoping that all would be okay until the morning. I had made it this far, and was so afraid to fall asleep and not notice that something had happened to the baby. I still don't know why I was worried so much more on this night than any others. I can only think that I was so close to everything working out that it really scared me to be hopeful. I was being cautious in case something went wrong.

I was also trying to remember being pregnant and have it forever imprinted in my brain. I didn't want to ever forget anything about being pregnant, because I knew that with all I had been through this pregnancy and trying to get pregnant, that I couldn't, emotionally or physically, do this anymore. This was very hard to deal with. I wanted four or five kids and really thought that I would be working on number four by now. I loved being pregnant and had relatively easy pregnancies. I felt great, no morning sickness, no bed rest, or restrictions.

I rubbed my belly and smiled at the kicks and punches. I closed my eyes and ran my fingers all over my belly, running through every detail in my mind. These would be some of the last flutters in my belly. I wondered if he would look more like Brian or Sean or neither. I talked to him and told him how much he was loved. I told him I couldn't wait to meet him and hold him in my arms. I told him that I wanted to give him kisses and about all the kisses he would get from his big brothers. I wanted to have him grip my finger in his tiny hand. I told him I wanted to hear his first cry and gaze into his blue eyes.

It was such a relief to finally get to the hospital and be hooked up to the monitors. The nurse found his heartbeat right away and it was loud and strong. I let out a slow and deliberate sigh of relief. After she got the monitors hooked up, she turned down the volume. I quickly asked her to turn it back up. I needed to hear the heartbeat to feel relaxed. The constant repetitive thumping was both therapeutic and comforting. I remember closing my eyes and concentrating only on his heartbeat. I was getting more and more excited to meet him. I was a little nervous about the c-section but knew what to expect since it would be my third one. It would all be worth it for a healthy baby!

Justin's birth was uneventful and he came out kicking and screaming. It was the best sound I ever heard - for the third time. He was very healthy and Brian Sr. got to hold him right away. The c-section took a little longer than expected because of scar tissue from my two previous c-sections. But soon I was in recovery and got to hold Justin. I didn't want to ever let him go. He was so cute and so perfect - just as his brothers had been. I studied his face and gently stroked his cheeks with my finger. I held his hand and unwrapped him to look at his cute little feet. I kissed each of them and wrapped him back up so he wouldn't get cold. He, like his brothers, was a great nurser and latched on right away.

It was bittersweet to have him in my arms and nursing. I wondered what the other baby would have looked like and if they would have had different cries. Would they have had similar fingers and toes? Whose nose would the other baby have had? Would the baby have laughed like Brian and Sean?

I don't usually cry when I talk about losing the baby anymore, but the last few days have been a little tough. When the going gets tough, I clean. I need to keep busy when I am upset. So, last week I started with the kitchen and haven't stopped since. When I say cleaning, I mean top to bottom, no stone unturned. I cleaned out my pantry and wiped down all of the shelves in my kitchen cabinets. I moved furniture to clean the dust off the baseboards behind it. I have thrown away six large trash bags full of stuff and have another four of stuff to give away.

It feels so good to be getting rid of things that I don't need. I am happy when I am cleaning and organizing. It gives me time to be alone and to think about things. Cleaning is like therapy to me and when I am finished and my house is in order, I am at peace. I have worked through my difficulties or problems and come out of it a better person - with a really clean house!

I will always wonder what might have been. But life has it's ups and downs for everyone, I am thankful that mine has had more ups than downs. I find happiness in things that I never did before. I love my children more than I did before. I take more time to appreciate the little things. I find myself doing things for others that I might not have before. I try things that I might not have before. I take more chances than I did before. I am more forgiving and understanding than I was before. In so many ways, I have gained by losing.

3 comments:

Brandy Lawson said...

Kim,

I'm so sorry to hear how much you were hurting during this time last year. I had tears streaming down my face while reading this. Even through all the hurt and anguish you showed so much strength at the time. I admire that in you, your boys are so lucky to call you their MOM!!!!!

Adam & Andrew said...

That was really beautiful Kim, thanks for sharing your heart and your heartache! I'm so sorry for your loss but so happy that you have three gorgeous healthy boys to love on!!

Kathy V said...

I came via the creme. That was such a touching post. Thank you for taking us all the way through the journey. I am so sorry for your loss. I am glad that Justin was a healthy baby. I was touched in so many different ways that I just don't know what else to say but that it was so sad yet so inspiring at the same time.