Operation Raptor, Pregnancy Loss

Pregnancy Loss

I wrote this “article” to share with friends and family and to rally them to my side for my upcoming attempt at another pregnancy. The outpouring of love and support was overwhelming. I can’t tell you how many people messaged me privately, encouraging me to share this story with others. That was one of the reasons for this blog – to put out there what I have experienced, in the hopes that my experiences will help others. 

So this is a long story – but for those of you looking for the cliff’s notes, here’s a quick blurb. I have miscarried four times. Chris and I are going to attempt a fifth pregnancy. I know you’re not supposed to “announce” until 12 weeks pregnant – but I have followed that rule four times, and four times experienced a soul crushing tragedy. So this time, my friends and family, I’m putting it out there. And this time, I want you all cheering for us. I want every one of you praying and hoping and wishing right along side us. I don’t care what God you pray to – or if you don’t believe in God and just wish me well with love. It’s all the same to me. I believe there is only one Light in the Universe, and that Faith is a Prism. Some may see blue, and others green, but there is only one Light. And if you call it Friendship or Love or God, put it in your heart for us now. 

The Long Story:

(Just as a warning, this is going to be a hard read for some people. It was a hard thing to write)

The first miscarriage I lost because I was working too hard at Barnes & Noble. Crazy shifts, long hours on my feet, and pounding back caffeine in high doses; that’s what went wrong there, we thought. The doctor assured us we’d be fine to try again, so long as my body had at least one month to heal. But things being what they were, we found ourselves pregnant again before that month had passed. Too soon, we worried, but hoped for the best. And when that pregnancy started to go very wrong, when I lost all that weight so fast, when I couldn’t eat anything, and was so weak I could hardly stand, well, that was probably because my body hadn’t had enough time to heal, and another pregnancy, after some time, would go smoother. 

I went a little mad after that second miscarriage. Things are a little blurry for me there. I remember being at work when it started. And that for a long time after, being in any bookstore would give me cold sweats and a nauseating panic. I remember working a shift a week or two later when someone came up to the info desk looking for a manager (and I was the one on duty) so they could promote a book they had written “nothing like it on the market, a very important niche to be filled, BN should definitely carry it”. It was a book about how to explain pregnancy loss to a child that had been told a baby brother or sister was on the way – how to explain that they weren’t… I remember it had a rocking chair on the cover, and a teddy bear on the floor of the nursery, like it had been dropped there. I remember a bookseller trying to get the author away from me, I remember running in to the office, and I remember crying for a very long time. I left my job at Barnes and Noble, and stayed with my best friend for a month. Someone needed to watch me. I was driving places, and not knowing how I got there. I was walking away from the car, looking for my clicker – can’t find it – its still in the car – the door is open, the car is still running. I was losing time and at points, just plain crazy. It took me a while to get back to myself. 

My third pregnancy we quietly announced to a few friends and my family. We were so excited! Chris and I were sitting together on the couch in my parent’s living room, and we made some comment about how it was so comfortable for three people. My parents were delighted. I wasn’t working crazy hours, slamming back huge amounts of caffeine; I was at a healthy weight, in good shape, hiking with the dogs, and this was going to be perfect! I lost that one three weeks before Christmas 2011. It was a day we were supposed to have a cookie exchange / tree lighting party at my house, and I actually had contractions. I remember my dog, Jack, who never was much of a snuggler, laying across my lap like he was trying to hold me together. I was sitting by my tree, my body contracting, knowing I was losing the baby, staring at the lights and the decorations. I remember running in to the bathroom, and a scream that I never could have imagined coming out of my throat ripping out of me when I saw all the blood. When I saw that it wasn’t just blood. Chris quietly called the people who were supposed to come and told them we had to cancel, that I was “sick”. I think my mom came and stayed with me a few days. I can’t really remember. That Christmas was hard. It wasn’t until I had a panic attack watching a TV show about a year later that I realized I had come to associate Christmas decorations with that miscarriage.  We didn’t do that cookie party / tree lighting ceremony again until 2013. 

One thing about my miscarriages: in the fog of depression afterwards, I lose time. I do things, but I don’t remember them long term. I don’t remember much of Christmas. Or New Year’s. I don’t remember Valentine’s Day, although I know Chris probably took me to a restaurant I loved. I think my first memories are around my birthday in March. Mostly because that’s when we decided something else had to be wrong, and went to see a high risk OB. She ran a whole barrage of tests on me. And it was a few hours before my birthday party that I got a call from them saying I had a clotting disorder, and that’s why I kept losing my babies. My body throws a clot, it cuts off blood flow to the pregnancy, and the baby dies. 

We went in, and talked with the OB, and she said that this disorder, Factor V Leiden, is actually very common (something like 1/4 of white people have it). Her recommendation was that the next time I had a positive pregnancy test, I come in, and she would start me on a regimen of blood thinner injections. Lovenox, twice a day, injected in the belly, for the duration of my pregnancy. She’d had plenty of women come through her practice and have successful babies with that program.

The next month, in April 2012, I was late. I came out of the bathroom, holding the test, afraid to look at it. The timer went off, and Chris and I looked down. Positive. I looked up at him, and his face was grinning hugely, and he was so excited and I was absolutely terrified. I burst in to tears. I made the appointment to go in, to learn how to give myself these shots. I was still in shock. Still terrified. I knew what a miscarriage was. What it did to me. I didn’t know if I could survive another. The doctor assured me that this would be ok. I tried to be playful, to be joyous. I joked that I must have conceived on April Fool’s Day. That our baby was due on the Mayan Apocalypse. That I would name her Maya if the world didn’t end. I started the blood thinners. I hate needles. I am a coward, I would berate myself, how could I stand childbirth if I was scared of a needle? But I took my shots religiously. My belly bruised. The drugs made me feel weak. I was having trouble breathing. The doctor was concerned I had thrown a clot to my lungs, and had me to go the ER for an XRAY. I was fine of course. But now even more scared of the drugs. I ordered a medical alert bracelet, because what is a bump on the head normally, could be life threatening on blood thinners. 

We went in for an ultrasound at the end of May. No heartbeat. The doctor figured that maybe in those first few days or week before a pregnancy test will trigger, maybe the baby had already developed a fatal blood clot. They had to do a D&C, because they couldn’t let me miscarry naturally. On blood thinners I might bleed out. We were devastated again. We thought we had everything lined up, all our ducks in a row. My mom came and stayed again. I lost time again. I had a conversation with a friend about a year ago, who had been out of town serving with the military on the west coast for years. “You were in town?” I said, “Why didn’t we get together?” “Oh, I think you were out of town when I was in town” he replied. “No, I don’t remember going anywhere…” I said, confused. “Well, according to your Facebook, you were in Connecticut.” Oh. I think. Oh yes. I did go on a trip. I had forgotten. Looking at that trip on Facebook, that was in June. Also in June, according to Facebook, was the day I came home to find a sample box of Enfamil baby formula on my doorstep. I guess one of the doctors had put my name on a samples list somewhere. 

The next thing I remember is a friend bringing me to a Stitch and Bitch, and introducing me to a group of women that I credit hugely with saving me. With Chris working 45 hours a week, and my best friend and my mother both living in Virginia, I needed something. Anything. And that group got me involved with Fair. Which anyone following my Facebook knows is now a huge part of my life. These women formed a circle around me in the ways that women have done throughout the centuries. Banding together to protect a woman who was lost. They took me in stride and made me one of their own. And at a time when I had friends walking away because they couldn’t handle me, these women stepped forward.  

I also need to take a moment here to say that Chris has been amazing through this all. He handled things when I wasn’t working, when I couldn’t work. He handled things when I went back part time. He supports my hobbies and passions. He understands my shifts in those passions. Between my second and third miscarriage, I developed a love for photography. He supported it. After my fourth miscarriage, it started making me so unbearably anxious to go on a shoot, that I stopped booking them. I don’t do shoots any more; rarely take out my camera. He supported that. (He still maintains I’m a great photographer. And maybe someday I’ll start shooting again.) When I take a week off work and spend 90 hours at the fair, he stands by me. (And runs the house). When I let my anxiety get in the way, get flustered, can’t make a decision, or just go silent for a period – well, he doesn’t appreciate it. But he gets it. When it was all I could do to grieve, he let me. Even though being strong for me prevented him from being able to grieve as he needed to. So many people have their marriages destroyed by depression or loss. Ours has survived. And I credit that to his absolute and unconditional love. 

I try to think what I must have been like then. I must have swung wildly from periods of dark, deep quiet, in to moments of manic giddiness as my naturally bubbly personality tried to push through the depression. Periods of fugue, and memory loss. I had developed a habit of answering questions bluntly. “Oh, you and your husband have been married for quite a while, any kids?” “Not yet,” I’d reply, “We’ve lost four”. It wasn’t meant to shut anyone up, or stop the questions. But it is what it is. It is something I have experienced. I’m not going to soften it for someone. If it hurts you to hear it, I’m sorry, but it really hurt to live it. And if I’m not the laughing girl of my teens and twenties, well, that’s life. I am darker. But I am stronger. I have survived what many women consider to be one of the greatest tragedies they can imagine. And I’ve survived it four times. I remember talking to a therapist, and saying something to the effect of that I always considered myself a strong person. And this broke me. She was actually the one who diagnosed me with PTSD, and suggested the Christmas decorations in TV shows were triggers to my third (and worst) miscarriage. I laughed at her when she said it. That’s for war veterans, or people who survive horrible disasters. She read me the qualifications out of the DSM, and I had every one of them. She had vets coming back from Afghanistan with fewer indicators than me. I really was broken. But I’m proud of that now – because what it took to break me was extreme. And I have since put myself together again. You can still see the superglue in the cracks. But that’s ok. I get by with a little help from my friends.

I took a part time job to get out of the house, to be with people more often. Just simple data entry, mindless enough that I can listen to an audiobook while working. But I have made friends there, and I have lunch with those people, and sometimes plans after work. I see my Stitch and Bitch girls regularly. I’m extremely involved with the Fair and with Judging School. I recently tried to explain to someone what I do. But just because I get paid to be a part time medical biller, doesn’t mean that is what I am. A friend suggested telling people I’m an artist. I guess that works. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to full time work. My next full time job will hopefully be “Mom”. I go to work 20 hours a week, I work on my art projects, I get together with friends. It’s come to a point where most of the time its like the nightmare of those four lost babies happened to someone else. When I get a shock to remember that happened to me. And it happens at funny moments. Out with a group of women, talking about how they told their husbands when they found out they were pregnant. I go quiet because I remember the last time I was pregnant, how I cried when I saw the test, and how I watched his face fall when he saw how scared I was. 

Another sad fact of this is there was a time sometime after I started work, I don’t really remember when, that I had to take a Plan B. Because a condom failed us, and I was in the part of my cycle that would have ensured pregnancy – and any pregnancy without those blood thinners in advance is a guaranteed miscarriage. It is an odd thing to have to do when you want children. Prevent a conception that would end any way. But to have it end before it begins is better than to lose it after it has. I had to take another Plan B a few weeks ago. I jokingly tell people that I am like a panda. I can’t breed without medical intervention. My husband laughs at this. “No”, he says, “pandas don’t WANT to breed. You want to breed just fine. You just need some help.” And that is true. I had always though of children like a Gift of the Gods. You get married, you stop “preventing” pregnancy, and let the babies come when they will. But not for me. I have to be like a NASA space shuttle launch. A team of scientists and a countdown. I can laugh about this now. Again, it is what it is.

When Chris and I started talking about trying again, I would break out in a cold sweat. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. Not yet. I had a girlfriend get pregnant, which terrified me, because I had come to fear pregnancy. “This,” I thought, “will be good for me to witness. A pregnancy as it should be. See its not something to be afraid of.” When she lost her baby, I crashed with her, knowing exactly what she was going through, and reliving my own losses in the processes. But I like to think my experience, and being there for her, helped her with her loss. 

“What about surrogacy?”, people ask. I’m not interested. I won’t pay someone to have my child. And I wouldn’t ask a friend or family member to do it. I would make her life miserable with “what did you eat today, are you sleeping enough, how much water are you drinking?” etc. And at the end of the day, there are so many children who need homes. For me, that will be the next step after this. It’s funny, how when you’re little, you imagine your children will look just like you. Long blonde hair, brown eyes, fair skin with my freckles across my nose. Then you meet your partner, and you start to combine attributes. My nose, but his hazel eyes. Hopefully his eye lashes. When you see a child that looks like the two of you, you think, “that could be what our child will look like.” But when you start thinking about adoption, any child, of any race, could be what your child looks like. Suddenly any child has the potential to be your child. And given my long history of rescuing animals and humans, I know my heart will love any child. A friend did ask me to promise not to call an adopted child a rescue…

The Way Forward:

So here we are. Time has passed. I’m better. I’m not sure the loss of a child is something you ever recover from. But I think I have healed as much as I can. 

I started the blood thinners on Sept 23rd. I was making a hot mess of my stomach again, all nasty bruising, and slow going, but insisting on doing it myself. If I’m going to get stuck with a needle, I’m going to be the one doing it. Well, that thought went out the window this weekend. Complete panic attack. Sweating and shaking and hyperventilating and couldn’t get the damn needle in. I finally let Chris do it, as he’s been offering to since the fourth pregnancy. I should have let him sooner. He’s a lot better at it than I am. Less bruising. Over quicker. He’s an amazing man. 

I will need to be on the blood thinners for a month before we try, which gives us a November “Go Date”. I’d really like to get pregnant in November, because I’ll have to be on the blood thinners through pregnancy, and up to two months after. And they still scare me. So I don’t want to drag this out any further than necessary. And in the past, I’ve had no problem getting pregnant. Of course, the last time I was pregnant I was 32, and I’ll be 35 this March. But I have enough to worry about with this pregnancy without worrying about that too. So we’ll set that aside. I’ve never made it to my second trimester (a fact I am thankful for – any loss is tragic, but I can’t imagine late pregnancy loss) But assuming I do, delivery will be fun… It has to be scheduled too. But if NASA can put a man on the moon with a computer as powerful as a high school graphics calculator, this should be a snap. 

I guess I just wanted to tell the story. To cauterize the wound of it. To share what I’d been through, and to put out the call to arms. I’ve built an amazing circle around me. And as this is the means that most of us use to stay in touch, this is where I’m putting this out in to the Universe. As I said before, I think that Faith is the same, no matter who you pray to. And even if you don’t pray, maybe just a moment to think about what we went through, and what we risk now. It scares me. But I have a lot of people who love me. And a little thought from each of them might do a world of good. If only for me to know the thought is there. I want to be able to post something about what I’m going through these next few weeks and months. I hated that, before, hiding what I was going through. So I thought, as a final act of therapy, I would tell the story of how I got here. And I’ll keep you posted how it goes. The good, the bad, and the funny. 

Love & Light,

Dana

 

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