Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Another Kind of Anniversary

"When can we start?" Joseph asks, shifting back and forth in his chair.

"How about right now?"

We drop small colored tablets that look like candy into five gray coffee mugs filled with water, and watch as the liquid is transformed-- brilliant red, deep purple, bold blue, bright yellow, and a warm orange.

We're ready to dip the eggs.

This is a tradition for us, decorating hard-boiled eggs on the Friday before Easter.

But next year will be different-- he'll be in kindergarten, instead of here at home in the early afternoon, decorating eggs.

And next year, the baby will be here.

"Mom, can I do the first one?"

"You betcha, sweetie."

I watch him place a cold, white egg on a wire holder and carefully lower it into one of the mugs.

All the while, I'm ansy. I've been feeling this way for two weeks-- like something's not right. Reflexively, I place my hand on my low abdomen.

Please be okay.

I'd been journaling since I first found out I was pregnant-- trying to work through the fear. Thinking that maybe if I wrote it down, it couldn't happen again.

But I haven't written anything in nearly two weeks.

This isn't like last time, I tell myself. I'm twelve weeks-- way past that eight-week mark.

No. We're fine. Just fine.

But then, I turn away from my son, from the unfinished Easter eggs, and pick up the phone.

Despite having no physical symptoms, I've convinced my doctor to see me this afternoon.

Ryan comes home from work and takes Joseph to the park.

"Are you sure you're okay going alone?"

"Yeah, I'll be all right. The doc is pretty confident we'll hear the heartbeat-- that's all I want, is to hear that heartbeat. Then I'll really be fine."

Soon after my arrival, I'm sitting in an exam room, shaking.

Why am I such a freak? Everything is fine. Dammit, I'm twelve weeks!

The doctor comes in, we make small talk, and finally, she pulls out the doppler.

She rubs a glob of clear, cold gel onto my low abdomen, and places the end of the device against my skin, sliding it back and forth, then in small circles-- applying more and more pressure.

For a long time, all we hear is static, and then a faint, rapid heartbeat-- but the doc tells me it's mine.

"Now Sandra, don't panic," she says, noting the look on my face. "It's still early, and this is an older doppler. I'd like to send you over to the hospital this evening for an ultrasound. You're obviously very worried, and given your history, I think you'll feel a whole lot better if we have a look."

My history. I'm glad she didn't say it. If I heard the word "miscarriage" out loud, then yes, I definitely would have lost it.

Ryan is still out with Joseph when I arrive home, so I drive by the park to tell him the plan.

"Why don't we get someone to watch Joseph?" he asks, looking worried.

"It's fine, really. The doc just doesn't want me to go all nuts over the holiday weekend. And besides, I'm not bleeding, I don't have any symptoms. I just don't feel right. It's probably because I'm so damn paranoid."

Half an hour later, I'm sitting on a table in a dark room -- a white sheet draped across my lap -- answering the questions of a very chatty, very young, ultrasound tech.

"So when was your last period? Oh, wait!" she says, after glancing in my folder, "You're twelve weeks today. That's so exciting! Is this your first?"

"No," I tell her. "I have a five-year-old son, too."

"That's so great!" she exclaims with a broad smile, "I'm sure he'll love having a little brother or sister!"

Finally, she switches on the monitor, reaches under the sheet and inserts a 'wand-like' device, called a '"transducer." As she moves the device, it begins to hurt. I wonder if it hurts the baby, too.

But then, I see him.

Sam.

For a moment, I can't breathe.

Over the next several minutes, the only sounds in the room are the clicks coming from her mouse and keyboard-- and me, gasping quietly at views of his spine, his head, his legs...

But why is she so quiet?

I finally get the nerve to ask if everything looks all right.

"Well, we'll have to wait for the radiologist to have a look," she says-- suddenly sounding a lot less chipper than a few moments ago.

Immediately, she turns off the monitor and says, "I'm going to get these images to the radiologist. I'll be right back."

Now she sounds a little nervous.

It's just me. More paranoia.

I lay back on the table and close my eyes, seeing his image all over again.

It's okay. He looked fine.

I tell myself this over and over . . .

After twenty insanely long minutes, the tech returns.

"The radiologist would like to have a look himself-- he'll be right in." Without waiting for a response, she switches on the monitor, and quickly places the transducer in position.

And before I can even think about what's going on, he's here-- a short, thin, bald man, wearing large black-rimmed eyeglasses and a serious expression.

He says nothing-- just looks intently at the image on the screen for about two minutes.

Then he looks at my face for the first time.

"Ms. Miller, we're going to have your doctor call you this evening with your results."

"What?!" I barely get out. "If you know something, I want to hear it now. What's going on? Is there something wrong with the baby?"

My heart feels as though it will smash right through my chest as I wait for his response.

He takes a breath.

"Well. I'm afraid that what we have here is a case of fetal demise."

Fetal demise . . . fetal demise . . . Oh God.

"Wait- what do you mean?"

This cannot be happening now. Not again! I'm Twelve weeks. TWELVE WEEKS!

"There is no cardiac activity. And given its size, growth stopped about two weeks ago. That's probably when the demise occurred."

"What? Can't we wait a couple of weeks and do another ultrasound?" I ask, desperately. "Maybe it's a mistake! My dates could be wrong or- "

"On ultrasound we can detect cardiac activity as early as five weeks. No, this is definitely fetal demise."

"But- "

"This is why I prefer having your doctor call with test results." And with those words, he switches off the monitor.

The tears are coming fast now-- over my cheeks, into my mouth. I can't stop them, I don't even try. The technician is next to me with a box of tissues. The radiologist is gone.

After sitting alone in the waiting room for what feels like hours, my doc calls to tell me that the baby probably died two weeks earlier, and that I can have a D & C or wait for the miscarriage-- which she felt would probably start this weekend. I opt to wait.

I just can't do it-- have him taken out that way. Not after seeing him.

At home, I wait for Ryan and Joseph. I'm sitting on the couch. The lights are off. My hands rest instinctively on my abdomen.

He's still here.

The sound of the front door flying open startles me. Joseph runs into the living room, flings his arms around me-- talking non-stop about a boy he'd met at the park.

Ryan is standing in the doorway, looking at me.

When Joseph finally leaves the room, Ryan sits on the edge of the couch, holding my shoulders as I tell him.

We stay on the couch a long time.

Two full weeks pass. Two more ultrasounds show that he's still there.

Still intact. Still a part of me.

Until finally, almost violently, it happens.

We end up in the ER-- there's just too much blood.

I never see him outside of me.

A positive pregnancy test, ultrasound photos, and so much pain . . . that's all that's left of him.

38 comments:

Andrea said...

Sandra...

I am so, SO sorry. I wish there were words that would help in some way, but I'm afraid there are none. I think this is something that one never forgets...which is difficult. Though Sam wasn't with you long- I truly believe that Sam is with you, at your side, in spirit. And will always be.

Rachel said...

I wish no woman would have to go through the anguish of something like that, but I appreciate you sharing your experience.

Kathleen Weaver said...

I feel bad for you.

Vivian said...

Sandra,
I am sending you a huge hug. That is one of the most heartbreaking things to go through, not being able to save them is torture. I know how hard it is to relive it in your heart, I hope it helped to share it with us. I imagine Sam is playing with our Landon, Christopher and Joseph.
Lots of Love,
Vivian

Val said...

Sandra -
I am so sorry you went through this. {{hugs}}

Shannon said...

I had a hard time reading this because I had a blighted ovum that was discovered at 12 weeks when I started spotting. The baby stopped growing at 6 weeks old, so for another 6 weeks I thought I was pregnant, until the ultrasound showed I wasn't.

We're part of that dreaded sisterhood.

Penny said...

Sandra, I am so sorry. Your posts usually get me, but this one had me bawling. I started doing the math. Joseph was 5, so I knew you weren't pregnant with Evan. So, I knew what was coming, but I kept reading and kept hoping I was wrong, that there was another child that for some reason you never mentioned. Oh, I'm so sorry. No one should ever have to go through that.

Nicole P said...

This post is so beautifully written, Sandra. I know it must have been painful to write - or maybe somehow comforting. I wish I had words to comfort, but I know there are none.

Felix Kasza said...

Oh God. I am so sorry.

Lyrehca said...

I'm sorry, Sandra.

Beanie Baby said...

(((Sandra)))

Kerri. said...

I couldn't say better what Nicole has already said.

You are in my thoughts. You guys always are.

Tekakwitha said...

Sandra,

Thank you for sharing your very personal and emotional story. You and yours are in my thoughts.

tek

julia said...

{{{{hugs}}}}
I lost a baby at 13 weeks. It's so hard to wrap up all those dreams and set them aside. It makes subsequent pregnancies full of gnawing anxiety instead of hopeful anticipation.

Thanks for sharing your story.

Tiffany said...

Sandra,

It is so obvious that your son got his grace from his mother.

I have no sufficient words but to tell you how very, very sorry I am. And how very much I admire you, more and more, each time you share more of your life with us.

There are some people that we meet who leave such an impression, such an indelible impact on our lives, that we know we'll remember that person forever.

You are that person for me, Sandra.

Thank you for giving me that.

(((((HUGS)))))

Sarah said...

Sandra,

I am so sorry for you. You and your family are in my thoughts.

Elizabeth said...

Sandra-
I wish you the best, warm thoughts during this emotional time. You wrote all that pain beautifully- if that makes sense. I know it's difficult, but sometimes it just feels better to get it out there.

Scott K. Johnson said...

Sandra,

Thank you for sharing that.

I'm very sorry you went through that. We don't always understand the reasons that things happen, and they often seem like such bad things. But it was just not meant to be.

I know that doesn't make it feel any better. I don't know of anything I can say that will, or anything that I can say that hasn't already been said.

We love you and are here for you if you need anything.

Jamie said...

Sandra, this post hit home for me. I know what it's like to lose a pregnancy - you NEVER forget that child ... NEVER. I lost two babies, and I find myself wondering if it was a boy or a girl (I never found out), who they would have looked like .... I still feel like I missed out with those children - children I never got to hold in my arms, children I will never, ever see again. These babies left holes in my heart that can never be replaced. I will always have a special place inside of me that is theirs. And, I still remember their "birthdays" - the day they were supposed to come into this world.

Like Shannon said, I'm sorry you're a part of this dreaded sisterhood - but there, unfortunately, are a lot of us out there who have experienced this kind of loss. It feels good to talk about it from time to time - as a way to heal, a way to remember and a way to make sure that child will not be forgotten - ever.

Big hugs to you (((((HUG)))))

Jane said...

I am so sorry. I went through a late miscarriage after two early ones and having to tell everyone was the hardest thing; after I passed the first trimester I'd felt safe to let people know. Sometimes life just isn't fair. Big hugs.

Jen said...

I am so sorry.
It is so inadiqute, but I do not know what else to say. Thank you for sharing. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult anniversary.

J said...

Thinking of you :-)

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the loss of your son. You have written about him so vividly, his spirit is alive, in our thoughts, words and prayers as well.

Megan said...

I have no idea what it is like to lose a child, having never lost one, and having never even tried to get pregnant. But you made it real for me. I was waiting for the ultrasound results with you. Your writing was beautiful- intense. I'm so sorry for your loss. You had me crying too.

Hoping said...

I am so very sorry.

Jill said...

I am so very sorry. There are no words. I have been there, and my heart breaks for you. I'm praying that you will be comforted as you grieve.

SUPERMOM said...

Sandra

I am so sorry for your loss. I can't imagine your pain. Know that our prayers are with you.

Patti

art-sweet said...

Sandra,

I'm so sorry.

xo

art-sweet

type1emt said...

Sandra (Hugs))))
Thinking of you-some anniversaries are of things we wish had never happened.

Laura said...

Lots of hugs. I am so very sorry.
XOXOXOXOXO

Anonymous said...

I believe that Sam is in heaven with his older cousin Christopher.


Mary

Ellen said...

Sandra,

I'm so very sorry for your loss and your pain. It's unimaginable even though you wrote so eloquently. Sometimes life is just too unfair.

Love,Ellen

Sandra Miller said...

Everyone-

Thank you.

Over the last week and a half, I found myself thinking a lot about Sam. I'd never written about what happened, and suddenly felt like I really needed to-- maybe because this year, Sam would have been the same age Joseph was at the time of the loss... I don't know.

Regardless, it was both a painful and cathartic process.

Now, I debated about posting this experience here-- at first thinking I would just write it down and not publish it.

But then, I found myself needing to share his story.

You see, miscarriage is so often an isolating experience-- few people (beyond those who've lost a pregnancy) truly understand the magnitude of the loss. Thus many find it difficult to grasp the tremendous need to both grieve, and acknowledge the (albeit brief) existence of the lost child.

So, in writing about AND sharing his story, I've been able to do both of those things.

Thank you for reading about Sam, and through your words, honoring the short time he was with me.

Judy said...

Thank you for sharing your story at Grand Rounds.

Vitum Medicinus said...

What a devestating experience.

I will never know that pain nor what to say in a situation like that.

I do know that it must have been painful reliving it while you recounted it for us, and we appreciate you going through that.

Your story has touched me so much, and if I face this again in the future I hope I now understand better a small part of what that must be like. Hopefully I can serve my future patients better now, as a result of your touching account.

Kim said...

Oh wow. It would have been so nice to have had those ultrasound photographs.

My fourth pregnancy was wonderful...no nausea, no fatigue, a lot of energy. So different from the other three! Until at 12 weeks I began bleeding and the ultrasound showed...nothing. I saw the black hole that was my uterus on the screen. They figured nothing had happened after five weeks. I had been pregnant just long enough to have a positive test. I had named the baby, and I still have the baby book with the positive pregnancy slip taped into it.

Until you have gone through it, it is really hard to know what it feels like. You did a great job of describing it. I'm just sorry you couldn't have had a more compassionate notification. Then again maybe it's why that guy went into radiology to begin with....

Tammi said...

My heart goes out to all women that have had to live through such a tragic experience. I too have suffered the same fate. 4 months in and you think it's ok to spread your good news and start planning that baby shower only to hear two of the most heart wrenching words ever strung together in the english language, "Fetal Demise". I think about the baby I lost(it was 2yrs ago), I am 2 months pregnant now and am extremely worried. I pray this one makes it through. Be strong ladies, cause only through our strength and undying love do their precious memories live on.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing. I work in the ED and often deal with women who are having symptoms of miscarriage, and are waiting for test results to say whether or not the baby is OK. Sometimes (frequently) we send them home saying it's OK so far, then the next day, or a week later find the baby hasn't survived. I feel so useless- unable to save their child, and just watching them cry with no answers, hoping they have family so help them through. Thank you for sharing.