From Limbo to Closure

Well, it’s been a weird couple of weeks, and since I’m a narcissist, I’ll fill you all in. First, know that I’m pretty okay. I think I truly grieved after the first ultrasound appointment, when they told me they couldn’t find a heartbeat, just an empty gestational sac. I went home and researched and researched and discovered that, given the size of my gestational sac, I had likely suffered a blighted ovum and would soon start bleeding and cramping.


Which never happened.


Meanwhile, many of YOU were sharing your stories of miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, D&C’s, and almost miscarriages that somehow became babies. Those were all really helpful—truly. Some gave me hope, like maybe there’s a baby in my belly after all. And some just made me feel solidarity. Like, yeah, it sucks and it’s painful, but life goes on.


My emotions and my imagination were all over the place—not sure whether I needed to be re-collecting maternity clothes I had lent out or preparing for heavy bleeding. I’ve carried pads in my bag for the past three weeks, just in case.


And still feeling nauseous and first-trimester tired the entire time. Every night before bed, sitting down to brush my teeth—standing was too exhausting—I would pester Tighe with what-ifs and over-analysis of what I thought was going on with my body. He was patient. I like to think he actually cared. His skin was in this too!


There were about ten days when I couldn’t even open the fridge. Ugh, all that food just sitting in there! I wanted to drop kick every little bit, every last condiment and slice of cheese from the roof of our house. Except I also didn’t want to look at it or touch it.


We were eating the blandest of dinners. Unseasoned chicken breasts and tortellini without sauce. And Nate and Sam went a solid week without eating a fruit or vegetable because ew. Finally, something we could all agree on.


Then there was a stretch when Sam had to wear long pants. In July.  I just couldn’t drag my heavy legs, butt, and rounding belly—in retrospect, the rounding belly may have been more a result of chocolate cheesecake consumption. Or my sister-in-law’s cherry tart. Or the muffins I kept making—up the stairs to fold clothes. Nate was resourceful enough to bound into the laundry room every morning and rummage around in the dryer until he found some shorts that fit him. Sam’s not quite at that level of problem-solving yet, so he just dug around in his pants drawer and added sweatpants to his summer wardrobe.


Fast forward to the second ultrasound appointment.


“Are you as nervous as I am?” I asked Kelly, the ultrasound tech.


“Actually, yes,” she said, “I hate giving bad news.”


But the second ultrasound immediately showed no baby, no heartbeat, and no growth in the gestational sac. I tried to soften the blow for Kelly.


“It’s okay, Kelly, this is kind of what we expected.”


We went back to meet with the doctor and agreed to schedule a D & C. For those of you unfamiliar with the shorthand lingo of obstetrics, D & C stands for dilation and curettage. It’s a surgical procedure involving dilation of the cervix and using suction to remove the “products of conception.”


Which is how I want to start referring to all our kids. “These are our products of conception, Nate, Sam, and Tess.”


Anyway, the doctor proceeded to go over surgical risks and the recovery process.


“…bleeding, some moderate cramping…and then of course, two weeks of pelvic rest—“


At which point Tighe cut her off.


“Whoa, whoa, whoa, uh, pelvic rest?” It was like when the Bobs asked Peter Gibbons to elaborate on the term “zone out.”


“No sexual intercourse for two weeks,” she clarified.


“Like, with each other or other people too?” Desperate times call for desperate jokes.


The next day, a nurse from pre-op gave me a call to go over protocol for the morning of surgery, which was scheduled for the following day.


“…you’ll want to shower the morning of with antibacterial soap, no lotions or moisturizers. And don’t shave your legs the morning of, do it the night before…”


Do I have to shave my legs? I wondered. I’ll be on pelvic rest, why would I even bother shaving my legs?


When we arrived at the hospital on Thursday morning, I did my best to banter with the nurses as they poked me, undressed me, and wiped me down with antibacterial wipes. But I hadn’t eaten in fourteen hours, nor had I had any caffeine, so it was a bit of a struggle.


Plus, my only other experiences with surgery had been my three C-sections, when I’m all hyped up on euphoric anticipation, about to meet my baby for the first time. This D&C was not to have such a happy ending, so although I was smiling and excited to have some pampering from the surgical nurses, I was still pretty ambivalent. Nursing is the noblest of professions.


“See, Tighe? This is why I wanted to get pregnant again! A C-section means four nights in a hospital and 24/7 attention from a nursing staff!”


Tighe rolled his eyes from a chair next to my bed.


“You know what would be a lot cheaper? You stay in a hotel for four nights and we pay some of your friends to bring you food and drugs and laugh at your jokes.”


The idea is growing on me.


Soon my doctor came to visit to let me know we were still waiting for an operating room and surgery would be delayed. Perfect since we’re paying a babysitter by the hour.


“There were a lot of shootings in the city yesterday,” she explained, “so we’ve got some organ transplant patients in there as a result.”


A lot of shootings—am I back in Baltimore?


Tighe had taken my phone with him in an effort to keep my valuables safe, so I passed the time staring at the ceiling and wondering what the area was of the space enclosed by the metal track that IVs and other hanging hospital equipment slides around on. I couldn’t wait for a nurse to wander in so I could ask her what her estimate was and find out if we could get a ladder and measure.


The boredom was hitting me hard.


When the anesthesiologist came in, I got excited. General anesthesia meant a midday nap.


“This first drug might make you a chatty-Cathy,” she said, flicking her needle, “or it might knock you out—“


I don’t remember anything after she said that, until I fluttered my eyes awake in the recovery room, about an hour and a half later.


Tighe drove me home, paid the babysitter, and strapped Tess into the car seat to go fill my pain prescriptions. Nate and Sam were riding bikes with the neighbor kids, so I was left alone to catch up on some daytime television.


At four o’clock, I pressed pause on “The Office” and lifted myself up off the couch and readjusted the hospital-issued underwear around my waist. My energy had returned, I wasn’t the slightest bit nauseous, and I had only the faintest of cramps. Glancing out the front window, I saw Nate and Sam and the twins across the street. They had a table set up on the sidewalk and were flashing a sign at passing cars.


“Cool,” I thought, “they’re selling lemonade.”


Having sat in a hospital all day, I was thirsty! Plus, my throat was a little sore from the intubation tube. Lemonade would taste really good.


The hospital bracelet still tight on my wrist, I slid a dollar into my pocket and strolled across the street. Turns out there was no lemonade for sale and instead, I walked back a dollar poorer and the proud owner of a painted rock.


But I felt happy. I hugged my pebble-peddling boys and my pizza-grubbing toddler. Had this been my first pregnancy, I think it would have been a lot more traumatic. But I’ve got three C-sections under my belt and three healthy kids who are all sleeping soundly in their beds while I type this. We feel content. And relieved to be moving past this “failed pregnancy.” After several weeks of limbo, now we have closure. To be determined whether or not we try again or whether we just settle on a puppy.  Life goes on, stay tuned!