Saturday, March 23, 2013

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

I have a lot to fess up to. Remember my last post? Yeah I barely do either. But basically it was me complaining that I didn't have time to write (well) all the things I wanted to.

This was one of them.

We had a day after Christmas surprise this year: a positive pregnancy test. Which was quite funny because, well you've read my Christmas post this year. :) Not a "method" surprise mind you; just one of those stupid moments of "oh you really do have to follow the rules, huh?" I had a whole post planned called "a conception conversation" kinda cheeky you know, with basically like, "How 'end of day' does 'end of day' have to be, huh?  Is there like 5% chance less of getting pregnant with every hour you wait?  Oh well, let's find out!" :) Also had a post joshing about how I had successfully found a way to truly stay a lactating Catholic even after this 18 month old finally weans, as opposed to a figurative the "tlc" Catholic, nourishing, nurturing woman I strive to be. I had posts like "top ten things not to say to a pregnant woman" such as to never say, "Well you're not that far along yet... still got a ways to go."  (Try five weeks of morning sickness and then tell a woman five weeks "isn't that far along." And I was going to announce the news with a post called:"What I really gave up for Lent": Soft cheeses.  Sushi.  (sniff) Shark.  (Okay, that wasn't too hard...) My figure.  Etc. :)

So yes, I've been pregnant. I confess that I hid from you months of intense morning sickness to wait for that magic "you can tell" second trimester. And then I was just waiting for the perfect time to blog the big news and use the line of prewritten posts. Not Ash Wednesday. Not during all the Pope excitement. Everyone was sick on that feast day. No time on St. Paddy's. First day of spring? C'mon, it's snowing. Finally I settled on Easter.

I was pregnant yesterday. Today, I'm not. In other words, this post is long and sad. Dear bloggee, do you like things that are long and sad? Very well. Read on, and read on bravely...

Bored and rushed but determined to keep all my prenatal appointments, I started my 1:45 appointment on Thursday with blood work and the inevitable pee test (Dixie cup and sharpee, really??) at my 17-week obgyn visit.

"Any spotting or swelling?"  "Nope!"  (I'm glancing at my I-Phone.  I could do this in my sleep.)  "Great!  Let's check on the little guy's heartbeat this time."  I hop up on the table, got gelled, and glance at my watch.  Dan's lunch break is over in 20 minutes, and he's spending it in the van with my two little ones.  Hoping this will be over soon, but hey, the heartrate is the fun part.

She slid the wand all over my belly, with no success.  This had happened to me before, and I chuckled with the midwife.  "Aw this just happened to me last week. Little rascals of this age love to swim away from my wand. I'll get you across the aisle to get a quick ultrasound heart read."

Of course I was a little nervous.  You always are in this sort of situation, just for form anyway.  But hey, another ultrasound of my cute little guy or gal! Maybe even to find out if it is a guy or a gal! Hubby needed to come for this! I headed out to van to explain lightly that "either my midwife could be slightly incompetent, or something is horribly wrong." I was being extreme. It's an ultrasound! What fun!!

Wish I could say my little ones were well-behaved as they trooped in with my husband. Games of chase led to chair climbing then to under-chair-tunneling. Then the Holy Grail: a water cooler. With lots of cups. Their behavior did not improve when we were taken to a small room with dimmed lights, where they discovered some tiny ants under a chair. They are such girls sometimes. Ants! Eeek!

"Hi, I'm Jill. Pleased to meet you. So have you been feeling movement?"

I had to tell the ultrasound tech that I hadn't.  Yet.  But like every other oh so subtle sign or symptom I could have picked up, there was truly never enough reason to get all worried. Not in my former way of sanely dealing with life anyway. Always obsessive about where I should be developmentally with my pregnancy and what to have and what to avoid, I'd looked it up. 16-22 weeks is a big window of time. Besides, I'd seen my little guy move three times before on ultrasound. No, I wasn't worried at all.

The tech's name was Jill. The name of my first best friend. My prayer warrior and fellow sister-mom today. A thought flashed "Gosh if anything was wrong, it's nice to have a Jill here." I noticed the thought, and put it aside.

No chasing needed today, the wand found my little one immediately. Classic profile, fetal pose, facing up. No wriggling around today. Must be sleepy. My last ultrasound I had the delight of seeing my little guy spring to his/her feet and jump!  I'd never seen a fetus stand upright before, so annoyed was my infant by the tap of the wand. After giggling I'd asked the tech to stop tapping as my little one seemed scared.  She stopped, and my baby settled back down to lay back, sucking its perfect hand with perfect lips. There's the baby now.  Perfectly still.  Still perfect.

My initial delight in seeing the sweet little hands and feet with ten perfect digits led quickly to horror. Where was the tiny flashing heart? I asked Jill. I asked her again. I saw the sheer concentration in the tech's face as she gently told me to relax and be patient.

This was not a normal response. Nor was it normal when the blood flow screen showed activity all around my baby, bu nothing within. Nor was the heart rate screen, which flatlined.

That's when I started to sob and beg incessantly for answers. I was suddenly on a tightrope, where one side was my status quo of maternity shopping and summer plans of great girth, and the other a pit of misery I could not see the bottom of. I think part of me still can't believe the side I fell off on.

My husband was there, mercifully and annoyingly. He was not the mini ultrasound afficidando I was. Long past I had fallen into despair, he sought to lovingly reassure me and in self-preservation delay his own plunge. Only after the second tech came in to "have a look" which ended abruptly with pursed lips and "get the midwife" and the midwife came in looking shell-shocked and she was saying something like I'm sorry and it's really rare but it can happen... all the while my preschooler and toddler were ever more loudly bewailing the presence of six ants, my younger one wanting to nurse and crying shrilly while my preschooler sought to enter the hallway. And dear Jill was blowing her nose and drying her eyes.

I wasn't crying anymore.  I pulled a "Office" movie comment on the midwife.  "Um, yeahhhh. If you could get a doctor, that would be great." I had found a tiny foothold in the precipice. I love my midwives. But Nothing was real till the doctor said it was. Not on Thursday.

The midwife seemed all too happy to comply. We were scurried through back halls to wait in different rooms. The looks on staff faces alone was a dead giveaway; they had apparently bee informed there was a "family coming through who's experiencing a loss."  But no, I hadn't seen the doctor yet.

Then we did. Cecilia immediately grabbed and employed the stapler on every available paper surface. The two women in the room didn't care. Nothing is worse for discipline than grief.

She said the words while I was trying to latch on my greedy and thoroughly annoyed toddler for a nurse so I didn't see her face as she said the words. She was blunt. "I'm sorry but it's a second trimester miscarriage."

I had the natural response I think: Are. You. Sure???  Her reply: "You saw the ultrasound yourself." The ultrasound where the techs refused to confirm the unbelievable stillness I saw. The perfect little head that nodded slightly in the ripples the wand created, then settled back between the perfect little hands. Not like my last three ultrasounds of gasp-worthy cuteness (for me): head-scratching and rolling and yes even jumping, and sucking thumbs and flexing feet. Not my bouncing baby boy or girl.  Here's the jumping pic:

"I'm getting you in for an emergency D&C tomorrow morning. Got to rush it because it's late in the afternoon and we have no good idea how long this had been inside you like this. Could have been a week or two.  Bear with me..."

D&C??? Tomorrow morning!?!? No. From then till now the air of unreality set in. I got on the phone with Dr. Carpentier, the only Creighton doctor in the area (two hours from me), but the first doctor I'd ever met to care so deeply about life from the moment of conception.

And like my other doctor, though with much more evident sorrow, he was recommending a D&C. Dilation and curettage, scraping and suctioning out the womb I'd carfully vitamined and avoided herbal tea for. An abortion procedure. I mentioned this weeping to the rushing and scheduling doctor, on hold on two phones. "No it's not an abortion procedure. The fetus is deceased." She should really bottle that bedside manner...

There's an odd blur that's takes over when you're rushing towards disaster. Turns out time flies when you're terrified too. The blur held on while I called my parents to come. Now. Take my kids. Please!!!! It held on while I told my oldest two at the kitchen table where I grew up that their sibling had gone to heaven. I held my 9 year old while she sobbed, so disappointed there would be no baby in August. I tried again and again to refuse the dollar my oldest was utterly determined to give me, until I realized that in her grief, she grabbed the dearest thing she had near her to console me.

Dan and I then drove slowly through tears, somehow ending up at Chelos for a soup and a sandwich. Only had till midnight to eat, and my Crohns is cruel when I have to fast. I choked on my favorite soup and stared my burger into a chilled, hardened mass. Putting food in my mouth seemed every bit as unnatural as trying to put it in my ears.

We went to church. To kneel and weep before Jesus in the blessed Sacrament in exposition. To pray aloud for ourselves and each other and our separated family. To give the baby God gave us back to Him, who held my child in heaven as surely as I still carried the tiny body on earth. I have rarely been so grateful for my faith. For having a God who is big enough to handle my rage, fatherly enough to hold me through it, and good and wise enough to know exactly the right thing to do for my ultimate happiness, even when I could not disagree more.

Yesterday started normally. I held an empty hope it would continue that way. But then my parents came. And my husband drove me to Women and Infants hospital where we valey parked our ancient car and admissions gave me an "s" tag for surgery beside the nursing moms' store. Pink balloons were being carried while I walked past the spot I had put my youngest in a cars seat for the first time to take her home. We went to floor 2. The non-delivery floor.

I was first informed that my husband could not come with me since they had been having problems with men fainting during their wife's IV insertion. (Guys, really? :) But fortunately God had picked out an angel of a nurse for me. In my rather vast experience of nurses, it seems about a third are heavenly beings of comfort that somehow walk this earth. And Dan got right in and handled my IV very well.

I don't think I stopped crying once while conscious at the hospital.  So when the D&C surgeon/abortionist asked, "How are we doing today?"... I mean, I originally was hoping to say something profoundly pro-life or something.  But it came out very simply.  "Oh, we are so sad!" He put on a convincingly sympathetic expression; "I understand."

I smiled a bit. "Please be gentle with my uterus doctor; I might need it again." He grinned. "And please be gentle with my baby. We love him so much."

He consented to a last ultrasound; my angel nurse had insisted and was already pulling the little machine in. It was a smaller and briefer glimpse, but just as conclusive. "Nothing. I'm sorry." He couldn't give me a picture, but Jill had. "Are you really sure though?" she had asked. Of course I'm really sure. This is the last picture of my beautiful kid.  If I had my way, I would crash a computer full of photos of their birthdays and trikes and laughs and Christmases. I wil gratefully take what I can get.

After I'd wept in the arms of two strangers, the nurse and the (female:) chaplain who both wept with me, I was finally given a sedative. Well it was supposed to be. It seemed to relax me just enough to quiet my sobs and weaken my body and relax my intellect to let go of the chief inhibition I'd been fighting while rendering me most unable to complete it: to fight to save the baby I had already lost.  In other words, to make a run for it.

So when I was wheeled away to the OR and away from my husband, my rational brain that sadly knew my only other option was to wait for a sudden and incomplete labor, delivering my baby sometime and somewhere soon and then going for a D&C anyway.. Well that part shut down. And my reptilian, primal brain stem which sensed my symptom-free body (no spotting, no cramping, no nothing) was being wheeled in to evacuate the beloved contents of my womb, I panicked like a child and fought like a mother bear to leave, shaking uncontrollably, too "sedated" to stop. (I really have to get the name of that most useless drug.)  Man, I'm both totally embarrassed and proud to think of it now... like seriously, Katie? You go girl!!" Every cell of my body screamed that this was totally uncool, completely not kosher, and SO WRONG. 

So I guess I can't really blame them for flat boards suddenly rising from under the table to strap me down, cruciform. My hands were pried from being clamped around my belly and strapped down. Ankles too. Doctors and nurses were scrubbing down and suiting up, some vaguely sad, others slightly annoyed, all committed to the task at hand. The D&C specialist's face appeared through my wild tears: "You have to cooperate. Deep breaths!" And my nose and mouth were cupped.

I told my baby I loved him. I breathed His name.

No sooner did I sense light from under my heavy eyelids then I realized I was sobbing again. (I overheard, "Oh no, here we go again...") I was empty. My belly was deflated. My baby was gone. I begged to hold him/her and was told this was both impossible and undesirable. I begged to differ, to no avail. Someone handed me a rolled up warm blanket which I rocked and pet and hugged and cuddled till chaplain Nancy cradled me in her arms. She joked that she wasn't a priest but Pope Francis might change that. She prayed that God would make my baby into an angel to watch over me. She promised me He wouldn't have let my baby suffer. She said she sensed my little one was an imp, and that he was now playing with his sibling Gabriel whom I'd lost to four years ago in a very early miscarriage. "You see! They're not alone anymore, they are together now! Maybe that's why this happened even..." Nancy theology was quite iffy. She was just perfect.

Dan came. Meds wore off. Nausea came. And lots of vomiting. Sleep came on and off, cuddled by Dan's side, cradling the quilted teddy bear memory case I'd been given to take home.

I got home. I staggered through the door, flashed a bravely fake thumbs-up to my kids, thanked my parents, begged my mom to tuck me in, said "it was so... Awful" and went to sleep.

It was awful. This is awful. But I fully see the many ways it could have been more awful. I came home to four beautiful, healthy girls to cuddle. My grieving husband was somehow at the fateful ultrasound. I had the best possible nurse, Catherine J (ask for her if you go to Women and Infants, she rocks!) I didn't physically suffer at all, or suddenly go into labor in front of my kids, or have to birth my baby alone, without warning, in a rush of blood on a toilet like I had last time, like most miscarrying moms have to. Yes, a woman's heart is big enough to somehow survive even that.

I don't think my little one suffered either. In life I got to see him or her looking so playful and happy. He or she was always surrounded by love. I held him to the end and longer still. And forever will in my heart.

I'm also keeping the Puffs company in business. (Note wimpy attempt at humor)  Tears are leaking from my eyes even when I don't notice them. I know things will get better. I'm not sure exactly when.

Please pray for us. But don't worry excessively for me. I am trying hard to bounce back with every inch of my everyway deflated self.  Doesn't bounce very well but I'm at it.  I know wonderful people. Like yourself.:) I have lots of kids to love on. And if it comes to it, I know there are better products than "cookoo sedative." Heck, I applied for a job last night.  Okay, then I couldn't sleep because every thought makes me cry (how I was going to tell that person, survive that shower, how I can lie on my stomach, where to return my new pregnancy clothes, to donate or store the infant clothes, how my poor Nana was so excited about this.)  And so I stayed up till four writing this... But still.  I'm trying.

One last sad but sweet moment. Well two.  One was that the choir and orchestra was practicing the songs of Easter in the main church as we knelt alone in the chapel: "He has risen up in triumph from the darkness of the grave." And before, as we finally exited the obgyn office with our awful news and awfully behaved kids, the two little one suddenly started to sing. Together. I'm not joking, they don't do that... Instead they fight over whose turn it is to sing or what to sing. They learned that trick from their older sisters. But instead today they sang together in precious lisping voices "tickle tickle wittle stah" all the way down the hall. And I felt like they were singing an innocent baby-friendly dirge for the sibling they don't know they lost but will get to know in heaven.

I miss you tonight, little one. You aren't inside me anymore. I'm so empty, like a tomb. But in a week we will celebrate the glory that comes from the tomb. The end of death. Eternal life. With you, dear one, and your equally dear sibling.

Twinkle twinkle, little stars. I'll always wonder what you are. Sensitive? Athletic? Witty? Mellow? What your smiles look like, your laughs sound like, your skin feels like, and the color of your hair and eyes. How much I want to hold you. How certainly I will. How grateful that I believe I will with every fiber of my fractured heart.  Pray for us as we all long to go Home someday with you.

"He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8

I used to think the above verse was God being a trifle obnoxious.  But I finally think I "get" this verse and find it very comforting.  It reminds me that God truly knows what is good, as impossible as His version of good is to understand at times.  My job isn't to figure out what's best for the universe; that's His job.  Mine is to be just, and merciful, humbling holding my Father's hand as He walks with me on the journey He has chosen for me.


  1. Katie,
    I wept as I read this. I grieved along with you as I read... I am just heartbroken for you all. I will continue to pray that the holes in your heart are healed.

  2. Dear Katie,
    I'm weeping dear friend, so sad. So sorry. This brings me memories of my mom's miscarriage when I was in high school. I don't remember how far along she was. I do remember the grieving and the closeness I felt with my siblings while we consoled each other. And we named the baby "Francis" partly because we didn't know the sex. And I remember how exhausted my mom was for some time. Be gentle with yourself. I hope we can all figure out how to best support you in this. We'll definitely get meals going. And our prayers will keep pouring down on your family.

  3. Katie, I am crying for your babies and for mine. And for those who had never felt this much love from their mothers. You are in my thoughts and my prayers...

  4. Oh, Katie. I am so sorry for the loss of your little jumping one. I lost 2,although earlier & we are still reeling from the loss of my little nephew at 37 weeks. How blessed your child was to be so loved. May the blessed mother hold you close in this time.

  5. Katie,
    I just had a chance to read your entire story. :( Some of it bore resemblances to when we lost Perpetua -- down to the looks on the staff's faces before I myself was really sure (except, for me, they wouldn't say what no heartbeat on the ultrasound meant, so I had to wait for the doc to confirm).

    I'm so sorry you had to be so present for the D&C! I think a doc could explain the shaking -- I remember my sister explaining it to me (I experienced this after anesthesia).

    Also, rest as much as you need to. I remember feeling awful after for more than a day (different circumstances, of course, but just rest if you feel you need to).

    Your writing is awesome. You sure had some docs with poor bedside manners, though!! Woah.

    I love that your baby stood up and jumped -- that's so wild and ...haven't so many of us moms wondered if our babies were doing something like that inside?? What awesome memories. I hope they hold you through your grief.

    I cried toward the end of your story, actually, and then quoting Micah 6:8 was a turn I didn't expect -- awesome. It's my Dad's favorite verse and I was just reminded of it the other day while reading, "I Believe In Love: a retreat on St. Therese of Lisieux". The way she describes coming empty handed to Christ and looking to Him to supply everything.... that was a new way, to me, of walking humbly before one's God. :) Certainly, in our grief, and when life is even more out of our control than normal, when we feel so empty through a loss of a child.... that plops us right there empty handed in front of Our Lord. How awesome of you and Dan to go to adoration before heading to the hospital.

    Such courageous faith. Keep it up.

    Love and prayers to all, Julie (Asam Monette)

  6. I'm so, so, so sorry Katie. Your baby will always be loved and remembered. Lots of love and prayers.

  7. There are no words I can find to equal your loss, Katie. You are so strong and you are so wise to find the good in your life so you are not swallowed up in the "depths of despair," as Anne of GG would have said. You and Dan are a beautiful and wonderfully devout couple with a beautiful family. Your baby is indeed lucky to have been loved and surely they are with your little one you lost 4 yrs ago. Love and prayers to you all.

    Catherine Higginbottom

  8. I'm so very, very sorry for your huge loss. I have prayed for you this morning. I am asking God to make Himself known to you through the very real presence of His Holy Spirit, The Comforter, who is inside of you still. He will never leave you, or forsake you.