Friday, February 8, 2013

Like a bad country song...

Last week was one of the worst weeks of my life so far. I'm not saying that to be dramatic. It just happens to be the truth. If there was a record of my worst weeks - with weeks that family members died and boys broke my heart - this one would land somewhere in the top three.
I have been debating with myself a lot about how much of this story I'm going to tell you. It's an extremely personal one, and one that I think most people would not tell. But, with the space of a few days to clear my head, I think I'm going to share it. Number one: because that's what writers do. And once, I promised to be real when writing here on this blog. And number two: in case any one who happens to read this goes through the same thing some time in the future, I want you to know I understand and I'm here if you need someone to talk to.

*deep breath*

I guess I should start at the beginning...
I thought I was having my first cycle since my son was born (he's 14 months old now but we had been nursing the whole time). I bled lightly for three days and then it quit. It seemed normal and I thought nothing of it. But then four days later it started again, and this time it came with horrible abdominal pains. At first I thought, "Man, the first period after a baby really sucks." And I've heard that, for some, that really is true. But after two days of increasing pain - a pain that stabbed me like a knife if I bent over or tried to get up off of the couch - I had a sick feeling that something wasn't right. I asked my husband to bring home a pregnancy test when he got out of classes. It was positive.
This is where it gets really hard for me to tell...
I sank down onto the side of the bathtub and rested my head against the sink, crying. It escalated and escalated until soon I was rocking back and forth, thumping my head into the sink, sobbing and saying, "What did I do? What did I do?" That's how my husband found me.
A million fears and pangs of guilt had overwhelmed me in an instant. I had missed a few doses of my birth control pill around Christmas. I forgot to get it refilled before the holiday weekend and when my husband and I were impatient, I said a quick prayer, "Lord, only if it's Madeleine."  You see, that's my daughter. I've seen her. I know what she's going to look like and I know she's mine. So I said the prayer that I would only get pregnant if it was time for Madeleine. I didn't feel ready to be pregnant again already, but if it was her time, I was willing. And that's where I should have stopped. In that place of faith and trust - that's where I should have rested. But instead, as soon as I could get my birth control refilled, I started taking it again. And all of that is running through my head as I'm reeling from the collision of facts: a positive pregnancy test, bleeding, and severe abdominal pain. "I feel like I've lost my baby girl," I choked out.
Here is where I have to tell you that my husband is a super hero. He stepped up in that moment to be everything I needed him to be and said everything I needed him to say. Not that it stopped the crying, but I don't know how I ever would have faced last week without him there.
The next morning my  husband woke me up at 8 am with a cup of tea and some good news. He had woken up early, cancelled his entire day (a practice flight, a stage check with the head instructor, and three classes) and made me an appointment with my doctor in Helena. "We leave in an hour," he said. When I asked how he could afford to miss all that, he simply said, "You need me today."
We loaded up the car with some "just in case" over night things and started out for Helena, just in time to get a message from my doctor's office that she would have to cancel the appointment. She had gone into a delivery. So instead, we pointed the car towards the small clinic here in Three Forks. The Nurse Practitioner - I remember her name was Kristin - did a brief exam and asked me several questions and then gave me the list of things we could be facing. And that was the first time I heard it: ectopic pregnancy. It hadn't even occurred to me. Kristin said, "Every time I hear 'stabbing pains' I worry about it a little bit."
I was so naive, I asked, "What happens if it is an ectopic?"
"Surgery." The word punched me in the gut. Of course. I knew that, didn't I?

She sent us to the hospital in Bozeman for an ultrasound. On the drive in, I tried desperately to stay calm. It might not be an ectopic. But it could be a miscarriage. Or it could have been a false-positive test and all of this could be an overreaction. When I started hoping for the last option, that's when I lost it again. What if I really was pregnant? How could I sit there and wish it away? But I wasn't ready. I didn't want to be pregnant yet. I was just feeling like myself again. Drake is sleeping through the night most nights. I have energy and wanted to work out and be strong before my next pregnancy. And I wanted to enjoy my marriage again. To share a bed with my husband and actually be able to snuggle up next to him without a belly in the way. I wanted to get out with my family this summer and maybe actually do some of the things we love and miss so much. But if there was a baby inside of me, I couldn't imagine anything worse than losing it. I was so conflicted I felt like I might fly apart. My husband just held my hand and kept trying to remind me, "We don't know yet."
The ultrasound was a two-part test, on the belly and internal. Which is humiliating, by the way. To lay there on that bed with all the worry and fear and then have someone...... it's horrible.
She was too quiet. And she kept looking at the same area over and over. And it hurt. It really hurt. And then she brought in the radiologist and my suspicions were reinforced as she pointed to the screen and said, "See? This area here."
He asked her to show him more angles and take a few measurements and then he said it, too. "Ectopic pregnancy." But he wouldn't commit to it. It could be an ovarian cyst, he said. He sent me to the emergency room for a blood test.
I am supremely grateful for the phlebotomist who was on shift that day. I have a severe needle phobia. Really. I pass out half the time. But the man who drew my blood was such a bright spot in the middle of one of my darkest days. He made me feel so comfortable and he made me laugh and he was so, so kind. I saw him several times that day but, sadly, never got his name. If anyone knows the tall phlebotomist at Bozeman Deaconess with reddish brown hair and a kind smile, please tell him thank you for me.
I layed in the hospital bed for almost five hours before we had any real answers. In the end, my worst fear was confirmed. Ectopic. A pregnancy in my right fallopian tube. And there is no saving it. The baby can't survive it and, if left untreated, often, neither does the mother. Those were the cold hard facts. Thank God for an OB/GYN who managed to share all of this with me with some warmth in her voice and manner. But "manage." That was the word they used. We had two options on how to "manage" the pregnancy. The first was medicinal - a dose of a chemotherapy drug that would dissolve the tissue. The second was surgery, in which case I could lose my fallopian tube and have decreased fertility in the future.
I was incapable of deciding. I was physically exhausted, mentally hazy, and emotionally raw. I couldn't form words to tell someone how to... how to... I still can't. A large part of me wanted to just go to sleep and have it be over. I told Justin I needed him to make the decision. He said that, for the sake of my health and our future children, we needed to do the medicine.
About thirty minutes later, a nurse came in with an extra-large syringe full of a yellow fluid. She said it had to be inter-muscular and had me roll on my side. As she slowly pushed the medicine into my body, I cried and squirmed. The moment she was out of the room, I lost it again. The medicine burned like evil. I felt like I had an enemy inside of me. I tried to escape it, clutching onto Justin, crying, "I don't want it! I don't want it! I don't want it. I don't want it. I don't want it....
When I finally stopped, I told him I wanted to go home, and he did everything he could to push the nurses to get me discharged quickly.
Over the next several days, I was weak and nauseous and in pain. I cried at the slightest reminder of what was happening, which was often since my body told me every minute. My mom and sister came to stay with me that first night, but after that it was just the three of us, trying to recover. And again, I have to tell you that my husband is a gift from God. He never went back to work or class that week, and he took care of everything. Which was a lot. When I list it all for you, you'll understand why I said it was like a bad country song: I was just trying to recover both emotionally and physically while also sick with a cough and head cold. Drake had a really bad relapse with his anal stenosis and was crying and screaming again as he tried to go the bathroom. (In fact, the first bad episode happened while I was having my ultrasound at the hospital, and Justin had to try to comfort both of us.) Then Drake got my cold. His first cold, poor baby. A fever and a cough and everything. On top of that, the chemotherapy medicine that was coursing through me made it necessary for me to wean Drake once and for all. It was harsh on both of us - like an insult to injury. Justin started getting up with him at night, both so that I could rest and so that Drake might not be so mad that I wasn't nursing him. Then, as a final straw, our boxer, Sadie, ripped open her foot and it got infected. It was so swollen, it was nearly twice the size of her other paws. Justin had to take her to the vet and brought her back with a cone on her head and two types of medicine she would need to take for seven days. Yes, even the dog.
The bright spots in the week were the time we got to spend together and the friends who reminded us how much they loved us. I had friends stepping up to watch Drake and offering to do anything else we needed. I got some beautiful flowers from my B's and a card signed by my dance family back home. I got a lot of sweet messages from friends and family offering their support and love. And we got through it. Thank you all.

Today, I'm feeling like a survivor. I still feel sad sometimes, but I feel stronger. I started working out the day after the doctor gave me the go-ahead this past Monday. I am determined to let this serve as a reminder of what is important. I will be strong for my next baby. I will be grateful for each day I get to spend with my husband and my son. And hopefully next time I see a positive pregnancy test, I'll be ready.
I still don't know how to resolve the fear that I lost Madeleine. Justin says my faith has to be bigger: that if I believe that God has shown me my daughter, I have to believe he will give her to me. I'm working on it. I'm praying a lot.
In the hospital that day, I said another little prayer just before the nurse gave me the shot: "Back to your care." And of at least that much, I'm sure.


  1. oh daughter. how i wish i could have done more to ease the pain, misery, and heartache.
    But this i believe - it, the whole horrific experience, will make you better. it will never leave you so in the end it will continue to remind you of all your blessings, your suffering, and the strength you gained for surviving it. i am always eternally grateful for you my daughter.

  2. I had my sixth miscarriage a month ago. It gets better. Slowly. But it does. And all you can do is hug the ones who you have now and love them more than you love yourself.

    1. Oh Tashina, I can not even imagine. My heart is breaking for you. All I can say is that my prayers of healing and love go out to you and your family.

      I've been hugging my boy extra tight this past week...

  3. Oh em! I had been wondering where you been! I an so sorry to hear this and I feel you're pain physically! I've been through those exact emotions of despair and fear, and then six months later to go in to find the sex of the baby, internal ultra sound also, and find no heart beat! then two days later to have my milk come in!
    It has been 13 years and,I struggle with the fact that had I had my Joseph anjel,I would not have Luke, and how can I complain? The pain does get easier, but it's still there. You writing this has to help,I to kept a journal that I have continued to write in on occasion. And odder too is how my body will remind me, in August when I lost him,I will have cramps and my breast hurt, then again in December near his due date! I don't know how to explain it and I'm always shocked! A painful a reminder it is, some how I try to find comfort in it!
    You are an amazing young woman, I'm so proud to have known you and you're family! I know they will help you tremendously!
    My prayers go out to you and your awesome husband son and family!
    Love you sweetie!

    1. Holly,
      I am speechless. I literally can not imagine how awful that must have been. To have your milk come in.... I'm tearing up for you. I just can't imagine. Thank you for your prayers - that means so much to me. I'm sending some back your way that your healing will continue, as it seems it's been years of pain. I'm so sorry.
      Much love to you.

  4. My daughter; I love you and I'm proud of the family you have, the woman you are, and the mom you've become. I know words of consolation offer very little, so I won't attempt to make any; Instead I'll just say I'm sorry, I love you, and I'm here if you need me.

    1. Thank you daddy. I love you so much. <3

  5. Em, so sorry to hear how tough things have been for you. You are so blessed to have Justin. Sending love over your way.

    1. Kelli, is that you? Thank you for the love. <3 We really are doing much better. And yes, I am blessed. I thank God every day. Sending love back your way!

  6. You are very brave to share this story. I know how hard it is to put it in words, but I found it was also healing. I hope it was for you as well. I am thinking of you often still. xoxo

    1. I do think it has been good for me. I feel like our hearts are connected even further now... or is that just me being cheesy? I love you.

    2. Cheesy or not, I agree! Love you!