It seems a lot of creatively-inclined people will submerge themselves in their art when things in life go awry. I suppose they find a solace in transferring their anger and grief onto whatever medium they are using. I find my experience to be the opposite. When life sucks, I don't want to write, because writing is emotional and makes me think about too much, and makes me ask questions and explore my own feelings. Nope. Pass.
If you look on the right-hand side of this blog, you'll notice there are no posts in 2011. That's because 2011 was the worst year of my life. It came on the heels of a challenging but ultimately fantastic 2010, which was the year Maddie was born (and the year I got to go see Ohio State in the Rose Bowl). Christmas of 2010 was the best Christmas ever - there was a new baby in the family, my sister Jackie was sober and present and part of the holiday, and on December 17th, 2010, my doctor's office called me to let me know our first round of IVF had worked, and I was pregnant, after trying unsuccessfully for a year via IUIs. I felt like my life could not get any better. I was swimming in happiness - a cautious but very tangible happiness. Every subsequent doctor's appointment seemed to confirm what I had imagined was an almost impossible dream - we were going to have A BABY.
Of course you can imagine what happened. We were quiet about the baby, telling only a few people. And then, when I was 11 weeks and 6 days (which is one day shy of the safe-to-tell-people 12-week mark), I found myself going in for emergency surgery. The last thing I said to the doctors was, "Please take care of my baby."
The doctors didn't even know why they were opening me up, they just knew they had to. I went to the emergency room that Saturday morning, around 1:30am, with severe abdominal pain. I won't bore you with the details of how I couldn't sleep, I couldn't pee, and how they didn't give me a pillow for my head but expected me to rest comfortably in the hospital bed, and how I whimpered throughout the entire night, and how Gina sat in the chair next to me, exhausted and emotional and uncomfortable and afraid. I'll leave that stuff out. I will tell you that they almost sent me home at 7am with a diagnosis of a UTI, but when a nurse noticed my pulse wasn't slowing, she decided against discharging me. NURSES ARE HEROES, YOU GUYS. I might've died had I gone home with only a prescription for fucking Cipro.
Sometime that morning, after they decided they weren't discharging me just yet, my fertility doctor, whose practice is located at the hospital I was at, came to see me. I could see the concern in his eyes when he saw me. "You don't look well, Katie." Maybe it sounds like he was being flippant, but he wasn't - he was validating me. No other doctor could figure out what was wrong with me, and one doctor even said, "I don't want to examine you because you are pregnant via IVF." Doctors, everybody! My fertility doctor was saying, yes, something is wrong, and you aren't going anywhere. He was the one who admitted me to the hospital.
I had a CT and an x-ray, neither recommended in pregnant women, but my doctor felt like my life was more important than the health of the baby. I'm thankful every day that he was there through all of it, because I trusted him without question and I knew he had my best interest in mind with every decision he was making. Finally, Sunday morning, he told me, "We have to open you up and figure out what is going on. None of the tests are showing anything, but obviously something is wrong." We talked about the danger to the baby, but I'm pretty smart and I knew there was no other choice. So open me up they did, on February 13, 2011.
I don't remember how long the surgery was - maybe 4 hours - but when I woke up, I wasn't in pain for the first time in two days - all I could feel was relief. I asked him if the baby was okay and he said yes, the baby was fine. He told me I'd suffered ovarian torsion, and that one ovary was necrotic and filling my body with sepsis, so they'd taken it out. They'd tried to do the surgery laparoscopically, but were unable to see anything, so they cut me open vertically from right above my belly button all the way down to my crotch. I imagine the next step was they were putting me on antibiotics to combat the sepsis, but I don't remember. I just remember the feeling of being out of pain and the relief that the baby had survived the surgery.
About two hours later, I started bleeding. Initially, when the nurse called my doctor to let him know, he said some bleeding is to be expected. But then I started bleeding more, and the nurse looked at me and said, "I think you're losing your baby." I don't remember what that nurse looked like - what color her hair was or what color her eyes were - but somehow I remember the feeling of the look on her face, and I remember how her voice sounded. She sounded like she was afraid I was going to freak out. But all I said was, "Okay." Thanks, morphine! I looked at Gina, who was there holding my hand, and I could see the tears in her eyes. A few minutes later, they showed us our 12-week-old fetus in a bedpan. I didn't cry. I was so drugged up and so grateful to be out of pain. All I could say was, "I'm sorry."
I ended up spending 11 days total in the hospital. I had a blood transfusion, which remains one of my trippiest experiences to date (I could FEEL myself recharging as the blood made its way into me - blood is the best!). It wasn't until I was on about day 5 that I started actually experiencing the emotions of what had happened. When I was finally well enough to go home, the infectious disease doctor told me I was finally "out of the woods," but that I had very much been in the woods during the past week and a half, probably being chased by crazy rabid wolves with machetes. Okay, I made that wolves part up.
Recovery sucked, but I did learn that two Vicodin is better than one. I also learned just how much you use your core for, and when an incision has been made through half of it, it's hard to do EVERYTHING. I also learned that Gina is The Best at everything.
Grief is a weird thing, and I don't know if this grief is in a category all its own. I'm inclined to think had the baby been still born, it would've been harder. Or if I'd lost the baby earlier in the pregnancy, it would've been easier. I don't know. I just know that there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about that baby. I used to think everything happens for a reason, but I don't believe that anymore. Things just happen, and sometimes things are great and sometimes they suck. The only thing good to come out of losing that baby is Isabella, who would certainly not be our kid had that baby been born. But that doesn't make the loss any easier for me. Those two outcomes exist on separate planes - I love Isabella and love that she's ours and wouldn't trade her for anything (even when she's being a little punk), but I still ache for the baby I lost and wish with every part of my being that hadn't happened.
Another thing about this kind of grief is that no one wants to hear about it. I mean, they say they do, they say "you can always talk to me!", but seriously, people don't know what to say or how to react. And it's easier to not talk about it, because it's such a bummer, and it's more fun to be funny and goofy.
I haven't been able to get pregnant again, and it's taken me this long to finally be okay with that. I've finally accepted that there's a good chance this just might not happen for me. It helps having two rambunctious children who don't listen and who treat me like a short-order cook/housekeeper. But they are also delightful in so many ways, and I love them so much, and that love is finally enough to dull the pain of the loss. I still feel a twinge of jealousy whenever I hear anyone is pregnant - even characters on TV! - but it doesn't derail me anymore. I can go to baby showers, although I do try to avoid them in general. I'm angrier and more cynical than I otherwise would've been, but I've learned to just live with it.
Every year on February 13th, I think "This is the year I'll post this story." But I haven't had it in me until now. Putting it all on paper (so to speak) feels like part of the process. So here it is.
|Right after our first insemination, in 2009. Look how relaxed and optimistic we are!|
|12/18/10 - the day after we found out I was pregnant. Pure joy. AND LOOK AT BABY MADDIE! COME ON!|