Mommy's heart for Baby Jacob

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tornadoes, Tears and my D&C, part 2

I was told we had to evacuate.  Nothing like coming out of the bathroom with your IV bag in hand to find this out.  They were moving all patients away from windows and outside walls.  I asked Alex to grab one of my bags--it was the bag with my baby's ultrasound photos in it.  My cell phone.  The boys' sock-a-dile.

I was quickly ushered across the hall to a very small triage-type of area near the nurses station.  Pink curtains were pulled around my bed for privacy.  It's a good thing I'm not claustrophobic because it was very narrow.

I was anxious.  Nurses were buzzing around getting patients situated.  They kept talking about the tornado sirens.  Have all patients been moved.  Then I heard the heavy doors close off our area from the hallway and outside rooms.  A security guard came through and asked if everything was 'all clear' or something like that.  A nurse responded, "Yes, our doors are closed and patients are moved."

My thoughts catapulted all over at this point.  I did know a storm was coming and that it was to peak around 1:00, the same time as my surgery.  I was glad a storm was coming.  I wanted the world to know my anguish--well, at least Dayton and surrounding areas.  Let the skies open up and let the tears fall.  Let the lightening strike and the winds blow.  Let the dark and gloom cover the land for just a bit.

While it seemed fitting that the storm was indeed peaking, I was terrified that a tornado would literally strike.  How often do hospitals evacuate patients?  Maybe it happens regularly, I don't know.  I found myself thinking, would we know before it hit us it if did?  Would we feel the force?  Would we truly be safe in this tornado shelter area four floors up?  My thoughts immediately jumped to my boys.  Benny hates rain and storms.  About 6 weeks ago we were at a festival outside when it started raining.  It rained sideways and Benny freaked out.  Ever since then, he's panicked even at the mention of rain.  I wondered how they were at Martha's house.  Was there a tornado in her neck of the woods?  She lived about 20 minutes from the hospital. I didn't have a TV in my 'room' but I could hear parts of a weather report from the nurses station. I strained to hear what they were saying. Was a tornado sited? I prayed that my boys were safe and that no harm came to them.  It killed me to know that they could be in danger without their mommy and daddy to comfort them.

My doctor came in to tell me things were on hold.  The operating room was an outside room so surgery would be delayed until things were back to normal.  I don't know if I was happy about this or not.  You want it to be delayed for as long as possible but then you also just want to get it over with.  It didn't help that I had to listen to another pregnant woman in labor.  There were 4 of us in the beds and I could hear her moaning.  I smiled thinking of her pain and how she would soon have something wonderful to show for all of that pain.  It hurt knowing that she would be leaving with a baby while I would not.

My doctor wheeled in the ultrasound equipment.  I had almost forgotten that we said we would do one final check to confirm that the baby's heartbeat had indeed stopped.  Normally I'm the one who likes to double and triple-check things.  When I had told Alex of the news Monday evening in the parking lot, he kept asking, "Are they sure?"  I never asked the doctor.  I was pretty sure they were but thought it would be good to check since he asked.  When I talked with her later that night, she said they would be happy to do one more ultrasound.

This was the moment where I held my breath.  Maybe things had been wrong.  Maybe they had the wrong angle yesterday.  Maybe there would be a miracle and my tiny baby would still be alive.  Alex leaned forward in his chair to stare at the screen.  No heartbeat.  The doctor apologized.  Alex and I held hands.  The doctor showed the blood flow with colors on the screen.  There was very little and none by the heart.  We talked about how Baby Jacob was lying.  He was all curled up on his side.   His feet were tucked up under his butt and hands were pulled close to his chest.  The doctor printed two more photos for me. 

I love when babies lay on their side.  The pose is just such one of innocence and sweetness as they find comfort in their sleeping.  I'm happy Jacob was in this pose.  He looked like he was taking a peaceful nap.  I wished I could have put a blanket on him.  Sammy and Benny always kick off their blankets and I'm up throughout the night covering them back up.  I would have covered Jacob up too.

The doctor left us alone for a bit and I talked to Alex about what would happen if I didn't make it.  He didn't was uncomfortable with that discussion.  The doctor said it was slim but always a possibility.  With what I'd been through lately how could I not face that fact?  Trisomy 13 is apparently the rarest chromosomal defect.  Since being at the new office, I was only the second case of Trisomy 13 that my doctor had seen in 5 years.  I don't know if I'll ever be able to look at words like "rare" and "slim" the same way again.  With all that had happened, I wanted to say two things to my husband.  One was that I loved him.  The other was that should anything happen to me, I wanted him to remarry so my boys could have a mommy.  That was all. 

I went to the bathroom again.  This time on my way back they said they were ready for me.  The tornado warning was over.  Again, things just happened so fast.  I hugged and kissed Alex and started crying as they walked me into the operating room.  I don't know how I feel about walking into a room like that.  It feels weird. I wonder if anyone has ever turned and bolted from the room?

I hate how those rooms look and feel.  Tall.  White.  Bright.  Cold.  Equipment and tools all over the place--many of which you shouldn't have to see. 

They had me get on the table and the nurse anesthetist brought me a second pillow.  She put a blood pressure cuff on my arm.  The clock on the wall showed it was 1:20.  My tears wouldn't stop, they ran freely right now but I didn't care to shut them off even if I could.  Two nurses came in and started attaching the stirrups to the table. I was told I wouldn't be placed in those until I was asleep.  It would have been nice not to have seen those big clunky black things either. 

My doctor came in and held my hand.  She introduced me to another doctor who would do the ultrasound for her.  I couldn't speak at this point.  Everyone looked the same.  Pairs of eyes floating in space.  The nurse put a mask over my mouth and told me to breathe deeply.  My doctor pulled it away saying it's too claustrophobic for most people.  She held it near my face.  I was grateful for her attention.  I had my left hand on my stomach and said goodbye to my baby.  I told my doctor, "I trust you," and she pulled my mask way so she could hear.  The nurse said she was putting medication into my IV.  I thought it might be an antibiotic, they weren't specific.  I watched the lights on the ceiling sway down and then up.

I heard myself crying and talking in the darkness. My eyes were still closed but I heard myself plainly asking the nurse questions.  Did she puncture the uterus?  Is my uterus still there?   Was there a lot of bleeding?  And then my eyes were open and I found myself in my room talking to Nancy, our original nurse.

She was telling me I had done beautifully.  Everything went perfect.  Uterus still intact.  The clock on the wall said it was 2:05.  It was done.  My baby was gone.  Why hadn't they let me sleep?  It would have been so much nicer to be in a state of nothingness rather than in a place of feeling.

For the most part, I just couldn't understand why I was crying.  It frustrated me. I think I woke up that way.  The nurse told Alex the anesthesia has an amnesiac affect.  He told me I sounded like Sam asking so many questions.  I don't know if I asked the same ones over and over or not.  I know I asked a lot, I had a right to know.  He said the nurse never flinched.  She continued to answer what I asked. 

Whenever you wake up from anesthesia, you feel strange.  For me it's the sudden loss of time.  One minute you're somewhere and the next you're somewhere else.   Surprisingly I didn't feel any pain. Nothing hurt.I was grateful for that. 

Nancy asked me to eat some crackers and pop to make sure I could keep them down.  Alex handed each Saltine to me.  The Sierra Mist felt good in my mouth.  I normally hate Saltines but I have to admit after not eating since the night before, even they tasted good.

We then had to make our funeral home selection. Alex called the one I had circled.  When he told me Jacob would be placed into a baby blue infant urn, it was almost unbearable.  I knew that moment was hard for both of us.

At one point I asked him, "Who do you think is holding Baby Jacob?"  A range of faces slid through my mind--both of us have lost grandparents.  A sweet old friend of ours from Texas.  My great aunt who died a month ago.  Then my Grandpa King's face popped up.  His twinkling blue eyes and white hair and beard.  His loving smile.  I told Alex, "I think Grandpa King is holding him."  Alex said, "I bet he is."

My doctor came in to reconfirm how well I had done and to say goodbye. She asked to see me in 2 weeks.  Nancy came in to discharge me around 5:00.  She reviewed everything I shouldn't do as well as what medications to take.  I asked her about the emotional healing.  Was there a certain point where I should start feeling better?  She said no, this would take a long time.  She listed several time where the pain could become more intense--being around other pregnant women, including my sister-in-law, my due date...she said to simply take my time to grieve.  We lost a child.  She reminded me that 13 weeks is a long time, "It's a third of your pregnancy," she said.  A third of my pregnancy.  All of weeks of sickness.  I had just started the second trimester.

An old man brought up a wheelchair.  I remembered how with my first c-section in 2005, they made me walk out of the hospital.  My mom was furious that I wasn't given a wheelchair back then.  My feet had been so swollen that I couldn't even get my shoes on. I was in horrendous pain.  And here I was riding out after a D&C.  Instead of a baby on my lap, I carried my bags.  Before we left, I showed Nancy a picture of Sammy and Benny sitting in a chair after their recent haircuts.  She said they were beautiful boys. My voice broke yet again as I told her, "Thank you for taking care of their mama."  She cried and hugged me.

As we rolled away, I found myself hoping that the woman who would use my room next would find nothing but joy in that room.

The old man pushing me chatted away about the tornado.  He said he'd never seen anything like it.  He said that most patients were brought downstairs to the cafeteria where it was safest.  Only patients in beds were kept in the center areas.  I learned that while he was a volunteer now, he had been the Chief Surgeon or something like that back in the '60s.  I thanked him for his kindness and was grateful that we didn't talk about anything further.  I wonder if he suspected why I was there?

We dropped off my prescriptions on the way to pick up the boys.  It was so good to see them.  Martha's sister had come over to help.  Both women were so compassionate and understanding.  They praised our boys' good behavior.  Martha said that she took them downstairs during the tornado warning.  I was thankful that she took such good care of them.  She said Benny had done fine.  Sammy was chatting away about the tornado.

We had to go to two different Walgreens to pick up my medications. By the time we picked up some food, and got home it was after 7:30.  I ate an entire foot long sub.  I guess I was hungry.  And chips.  And a chocolate chip cookie that the boys had made with Martha. 

For most of the night, I was in shock I think.  I wasn't supposed to do much physical work.  I really didn't know what to do with myself.  What does a woman do the very day she loses a child?  Pay bills?  Sleep?  Wash dishes?  I sat at the computer and stared at the wall for awhile.  I sat at the dining room table and talked with Alex.  I cried a lot.   I talked a bit to family.  I researched D&C recovery and found my way to sites about memorializing your baby.  This made me cry even more.

I experienced a difficult call from someone.  It's too hard to write about here and I'm grateful that I think was in shock during that time.  That's all I can say now.

I talked with my mom. I told her about what I had asked Alex earlier at the hospital, about who might be holding our baby.  I told her that I thought her dad was.  Mom cried.  She said that today, October 26 was both she and her dad's birthday.  She reminded me that Grandpa had delivered her on his birthday and that surely he was the one who was cradling my infant son up in Heaven.  My grandpa died back in '93--he was the first of my family to pass away that I was close to.  How I had thought of him now, I don't know.  It was only after my mom and I shared that beautiful realization of the special beauty of today that...well, I just think it was my grandpa who holds Jacob.   Mom and I have cried lots over this beautiful and symbolic thought.

I finally went to bed around 2:00 AM.  I have no idea how I made it up so late, especially after only 2 hours of sleep before.  It was hard getting into bed.  Not as hard as after a c-section but it was difficult to lift my legs up to our king-size bed.  I grabbed the Upper Room devotional booklet that I had picked up at the hospital.  I felt that I needed to leave with something so took it from their waiting area.  As I tried to get comfortable, I flipped the first page open. I had hoped to read something inspirational before trying to get to sleep.

You'll never believe this.  The very first page I opened to was titled, "Silence."  It quoted and was based on the exact same verse that I'd been seeing over the last few days--Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God."  I was almost in disbelief that I had found this verse for the third time, and all by accident.  I showed it to Alex.  He agreed that there was something there.

I wondered what I should do to "Be still."  I know God is trying to tell me something.  I hope I can hear Him.

Eventually I found myself drifting, my pillow damp from my tears and the cat at my feet.

So that's what a D&C is like for anyone who's ever wondered.  Perhaps you've never had one or never will.  Even in times of crisis, I hope my words find their way to you somehow.  Let yourself be in the moment, whatever that moment is.  Surround yourself with photos of loved ones.  Sit in a funk if you have to.  Write if if helps.  Cry.  Cry a lot. Listen for God.  He's there, just as He was with me today.


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