Monday, November 2, 2015

Who Am I?

Who am I?
Ever since I got pregnant, my identity has changed. First, I was a happy yet scared yet miserable pregnant woman, who despite the misery that pregnancy caused me, loved that little baby inside of me with all my heart. After the "12 week mark," (what a joke) I made an announcement to the world that I was expecting.
Four weeks later, I was a screaming woman lying on a table as they performed an ultrasound and told me that my baby had died. Then I was a surgical patient as they scraped my deceased child from my womb.
Then I was a bereaved mother, whose grief had consumed her. And for the past 8 months, has consumed me. I read every single book I could find on miscarriage, stillbirth, grief, you name it, I read it. All in an attempt to understand this new role in my life. The mother to the proverbial angel baby.
Now I've become a woman consumed with trying to conceive. Such frustration I bear every month, as I chart my temperatures, check my cervical mucus and positioning, pee on ovulation predictor strips, trying to pinpoint the exact moment when conception is most likely. Only to be crushed 2 weeks later when my period arrives. I don't understand, when we got pregnant with Quinn we weren't even trying, we had only quit using birth control a month before. (And so HELP ME GOD if ANYONE suggests "You're trying to hard," "It'll happen when it's supposed to happen," or the wonderful wisdom of "just take a vacation with your husband, that'll do the trick!" I will punch you in the face!)
Basically, my whole last year I've been consumed with motherhood and all the joyous and not so joyous and downright tragic aspects of it.
But I'm tired of playing this role. Yes, it will always be a part of me, and yes, I will have good days and bad, but I just want to feel like myself again. But I feel I've forgotten how. I know I'll never be the person that I was before, and I wouldn't want to be. Though my baby died, he showed me I was capable of a deeper love than I ever imagined. But I'd like to know how to integrate these experiences into a life worth living, where I feel like there's more to my identity than just this.
I will always love you, Quinn, and I'm grateful that I've begun to be able to feel your presence, and that you're in a good place, my little adventurer, soaring through the clouds and zipping through the stars, seeing the Kyomizu-dera in Japan, the great barrier reef, the Sarengeti, all all the beauty this world has to offer. I love you more than words could ever express. But I need to be more than just your mommy now. I feel your presence is giving me permission to do so.
So I begin.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A mother's guilt

Dear Quinn,

I know it's been a long time. It's just been too painful, all of these memories I have.

I'm doing EMDR on some of those memories. You see, I have this extreme guilt that I somehow killed you because of the things I did while pregnant, things that most women either don't do or don't admit to doing. Do you blame me, little Quinn? Did I cause you to die?

Do you blame me for that week right before you died where I broke down and smoked cigarettes again?

Do you blame me for staying on my psych meds?

Do you blame me for my erratic sleep schedule, caused by my bipolar disorder, that caused me to stay up all night sometimes? I worry big time that this one could've been the culprit, because I know whenever I didn't get sleep that it would raise my blood pressure, and I know for a fact that medically this harms the baby. Oh Quinn, did I cause your death, did my bipolar disorder cause you to die?

Or what about when my morning sickness was so bad that I smoked pot a couple of times? I'm ashamed to admit it--NO ONE admits to using medicinal marijuana during pregnancy, so I'm really throwing myself to the wolves with this one. But I was just so absolutely miserable, and the meds my doctor gave me weren't helping, whereas the pot did. And it was only a couple of times. I just don't know.

Or did I hurt you by sleeping on my stomach? I've always been a stomach sleeper, and I remember asking the midwife if I needed to stop now or if my body would let me know when it was time, and she said my body would let me know, but I remember towards the end there feeling this pressure in my belly--maybe that was the time to stop, and I was harming you?

There's so many more, but I feel like I've said too much already, the guilt is eating me alive.

I love you and miss you with all my heart.


Monday, March 2, 2015

The D&E and afterwards

Sunday evening, the anesthesiologist called. He went over my medical history (mostly clear, except for an extensive psychiatric history), and I was instructed nothing to eat or drink past midnight, except a sip of water the next morning to take my medications.

Monday morning came, and I woke up at 8 a.m. to put the Cytotec pills up my vagina. The Cytotec was to help dilate my cervix. Graciously, I fell back asleep until noon, when I got ready to go to the hospital. I was to check in at 12:30 for my 2:30 surgery.

Damian drove us to the hospital, I advised him to bring his schoolbooks with him to study while he waited, though I don't know how much studying he was able to get done. During the drive, Damian put The National on for us to listen to. On a good day, The National makes me feel somber, but for today, it was the perfect backdrop for the heartache I was experiencing. 

I checked in with Surgery Check-In, and the woman put a name band on my wrist. Upstairs we went to the 5th floor--the same floor I had all my prenatal appts on--and I grabbed the phone from the wall to let them know that I was there. They said someone would be out to get me shortly. 

Damian and I had a seat in the waiting area, and someone came and talked to me for a minute, though about what, I do not remember. Still in so much shock. Either she or another person came and led me back, while Damian was to wait.

I was shown my "stall," and given a gown to change into. No underwear, socks, or bra, just the gown. The nurse chatted with me a little bit about nursing stuff. She tried to get an IV, but blew the first one. "It's the nurse curse!" she said. She then started an IV in my right hand. In the meantime, a young girl came up from the lab to draw my blood. 12 tubes total, most to be sent out for testing. 

Another nurse came and introduced herself. I could tell she was trying to hold back tears, which made me feel better, knowing that someone appreciated the sorrow of the situation. She gave me a miniature baby blanket and cap, explaining that they don't like any of their mothers to leave empty-handed. She said I could take them into the OR if I wanted. 

They brought Damian in for a little bit. They asked us what we wanted done with the remains. We chose to have the hospital take care of them, and we were told our baby would be buried at Littleton Cemetery. It felt so nice to know that there would be a place we could go to visit our baby. 

The nurse was giving me a bag of Lactated Ringers, as well as an IV antibiotic. 

The nurse anesthetist came by to introduce himself, and the anesthesiologist introduced himself in person. Many people asked me when was the last time I had any food or drink. The anesthesiologist explained that they would be intubating me, because given how far along my pregnancy was, sometimes the uterus can push up on the stomach, and they wanted to make sure I didn't aspirate. 

Dr. Adelberg came in. She talked about pain, but I don't remember much else besides that. 

The girl from the lab came back up, turns out there were 2 more labs that needed to be collected, so my blood had to be drawn again. Make that 14 tubes total. 

I remember crying off and on throughout all the rigamarole of various people introducing themselves to me and asking me questions. 

Finally, it was time to go to the OR. Clutching the bundle holding the baby blanket and cap in my hand, I was wheeled into the OR on a gurney. It was so cold in the OR. I hopped down from the gurney and up onto the operating table. I remember my hand hurting as I was moving due to the IV. I didn't want to mess up the IV, so I moved as gingerly as I could. On the operating table, clutching the bundle in my left hand, they strapped my left arm down. The anesthesiologist started giving me the anesthesia, so I was already out before they finished strapping down my right arm. 

The next thing I remember, I'm waking up in PACU. I felt a huge gush from between my legs. I had to go to the bathroom, probably due to all the IV fluids they gave me. I was instructed that I could wipe, but not to flush, because the nurse needed to see it. I went pee, and when I stood up I looked inside the toilet bowl, and nearly passed out from all of the blood. The nurse told me everything looked great, no clots. She then proceeded to give me the worst pair of disposable mesh panties with a gigantic pad. I crawled back up onto my gurney, as I struggled to come to completely. I asked when I could go home. They said I needed to eat and drink something first. I asked when I could see Damian. They said they'd go get him. 

They moved me back to my original "stall" that I started in at the beginning of the day, and I voraciously wolfed down on some peanut butter ritz crackers. Damian came in. I never thought I'd be so happy to see him in my life. I changed back into my clothes, and I was taken down in a wheelchair while Damian got the car. 

I got in the car, and started crying immediately. Tears of sorrow, yet also tears of relief. Just so glad to have it done with. I was no longer pregnant with either a live or dead baby. My body could begin to heal and return to normal.

On the way home, we stopped at the pharmacy to pick up my pain meds. They know me quite well at this pharmacy, as I seem to have to stop there at least every week to pick up this psych med or that psych med. The pharmacy tech looked at my belly and asked "Oh, are you pregnant?"

Crestfallen, I said "Not anymore. I miscarried and had to have surgery today, that's why I'm picking up Percocet." The look on his face, his jaw dropped...

I didn't need the Percocet. Not for physical pain, anyway. Surprisingly, there was very little. Still, I took my 6 Percocet because they helped me with my emotional pain. 

Something that was only just beginning... 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Quinn, I love you, and I miss you.

"She's convinced she could hold back a glacier
but she couldn't keep Baby alive" - Tori Amos

Dear Quinn,

I am so, so, so, so, so, so, sorry.

You lived in my womb for 14 weeks and 3 days. I did not know you had died until 15 weeks, 6 days, on Friday, February 6th, 2015.

I was so shocked. It was just a routine appointment. They went through everything, and at the end they tried to find your heartbeat with the doppler. No luck. Then they used "R2D2" (the very old ultrasound machine in the exam room). "Come on, I thought I heard you!" the midwife said in frustration. So they took me back to the high-tech ultrasound room. I hopped up on the bed, excited to see my baby on the big screen. You appeared, and I was so elated. "I can see its spine!" I proclaimed, because it was not visible during the last ultrasound done at 12 weeks. The sonographer said "Yes Rhiannon, but here's it's heart....I'm so sorry, it's not beating."

"What?!? What do you mean it's not beating?!? This can't be! What's going on?" I scrambled up in the bed, my belly still covered with gel, half-naked yet feeling utterly exposed. Tears started following immediately as I began sobbing and wailing.

The lights were dim. They always are in that ultrasound room, but I felt grateful for the darkness at that time.

An eery silence. Kris, the midwife, brought me tissues. The student NP stood silently towards the back, her hands respectfully clasped in front of her.

"We'll get Dr. Adelberg."

In the meantime, I call my work, tell them I've lost my baby, and I can't work today. I call Damian, tell him we've lost the baby, and please come pick me up. I was in such shock I could barely remember the phone numbers.

Dr. Adelberg comes in, and I immediately wail "it's the medications I'm on!"

She says no, if that were the case, this would've happened much sooner.

I ask her "So what do we do now?"

She tells me my options, that in time my body might expel it, but it's quite large--YOU were large--and that there's a procedure called a D&E.

I tell her "Just tell me what to do, I can't make a decision right now."

She recommended the D&E.

While we're waiting for Damian to arrive, they take me to another room. This is not an exam room, there's no machines or table to sit on. This looks more like a break room, with a recliner. More dim lighting.

Damian shows up, and Dr. Adelberg talks to us, though about what, I can't really remember. So much shock. She called it a "missed abortion," because my body gave no indicators that anything was wrong.

There was room on the operating room schedule for Monday, February 9th, 2015, and that is when I was to have my D&E.

All weekend long I felt so uncomfortable, disturbed, even, to know that my baby was in my body, but it was not alive. I was carrying a dead baby. I just wanted it out of me. At the same time, I did not want to have the D&E. I've never had surgery before, and being a former victim of sexual assault, I was uncomfortable with the idea of a bunch of strangers sticking implements up inside of me. Implements that would suction and scrape your poor little remains from my uterus.

Damian and I took several walks around the lake. The weather was perfect--idyllic, even. And each time we walked, I saw families with strollers, and my emotions would well up. We clung tightly to each other, each of us needing each other more than we've ever needed each other before.

(to be continued)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pregnant and Bipolar

I'm pregnant. 13 weeks, 5 days. Only 26 weeks, 2 days to go.

I would not wish being bipolar and pregnant on anyone. Which is not to say I would try to dissuade anyone who is bipolar from becoming pregnant, as I ultimately do view this child as a gift. I knew I was bipolar, and I knew it would complicate my pregnancy, but I just had no idea just how much.

I've made the decision to stay on my meds (I know, boo! hiss! such a bad mother! etc.). Which would be fine and dandy, except pregnancy messes with the body (other than, you know, that whole growing belly thing), so we're playing hell trying to get my lithium levels in the therapeutic range. And it looks like that'll be the case the duration of the pregnancy. Which kind of makes me feel like, What's the point then? Why put my baby at risk if we might not even be able to get the meds at the right working levels, anyway? But still, I can't give up. This time of year is just too hard on me. This pregnancy is just too hard on me.

But still, I persevere. I'm told that I'm a fighter, that I'm strong. I know it to be true intellectually, maybe one day I'll know it to be true in my heart.