Thursday, September 5, 2013

One Life, One Death

WARNING: This is not going to be a normal AB&WOC post; I'm afraid I'm a bit on the emotional side, considering I'm in the 9th month of this whole Kid House thing, bare with me... it's about to get very personal.  Don't read this if you might be upset by it.

(I had to consider if I should publish this or not, and I've decided that while it's deeply personal, it might help someone else get through what we've gone through... I'll tell you that there are some situations that will never be "OK" and you don't get past them.  You go through them and you keep living.  Big difference.  But life is worth it).

Yay hormones!

I'm a bit worried about a friend of mine who has a similar history of pregnancy loss, ectopic pregnancy & general medical mess as me.  She's pregnant again & not quite as far along as is comfortable for people who have suffered multiple early losses.  Everything looks good for her so far, but it's still nerve wracking, waiting to hear and knowing exactly what she's going through.  I've tried to express that concern to a few people who promptly ignore and move the conversation to more comfortable topics. Understandable, and there's nothing they can do, not much to say, and it's so hard to relate... but it's frustrating all the same.

That her life is a scary parallel to my own, witnessing the total indifference of others is difficult. As my mother says, "nobody cares but you."

People try to be comforting and they say hurtful things without thinking.
"I'd stop trying after an ectopic!"
No.  No you wouldn't.  If you want a child and it's safe to keep trying, you keep trying.  It's as simple as that.
Ectopic pregnancies suck.  They suck so much I can't even begin to say how much they suck.  Not only is there absolutely no hope of survival for your might-have-been-child, it could easily kill you too.  And the solution to the problem (while not as horrible as it was decades ago) also sucks.  You are sick for weeks (maybe); it HURTS... it hurts more than a broken bone, more than being hit by lightening (trust me, I know).  It hurts emotionally because it's all so utterly hopeless.  And they don't tell you about the possible side effects of the medication because it's listed as "generally well tolerated."  Well, lemme tell ya, as a person who does not generally tolerate medications well, that was one heck of a roller coaster.  While I can't say for certain it's what caused my stroke last year (too many factors there), it was a contender, especially when you consider that I got the worst possible advice on what painkiller to take with it.
The one blessing in all of that is that I didn't have to make a conscious decision to end the pregnancy, I was spared that by fate & doctors playing "pass the bombshell" long enough that I miscarried naturally, but had complications that required treatment.  The ectopic was confirmed during surgery, but the whole communications mess that just made it worse. 
Now take those losses, the doctor-induced PTSD, a mini-stroke and months of recovery time... and after all that, no, you don't stop trying; not when both tubes are fine & you are medically cleared.
"Why don't you just adopt / take in foster kids?"
Well... lemme tell ya...
First, there are certain (very strict) qualifications a couple has to meet in order to adopt in the USA. 
Let's not even discuss going out of country.One is an income requirement, which my husband & I do not meet.   Basically you can work your tail off & meet the income requirements and not the time requirements, or you can luck into a job that pays enough & offers enough free time that an adoption agency will feel comfortable handing you responsibility for another human being.
The next is a house with so many square feet & room requirements for said human.
Health insurance to cover the above-mentioned human.
The list goes on & on & on & on.  It's extensive, but not impossible.
When we were doing the "full work-up" (that's what genetic screening & a bunch of tests to find out why we couldn't grow a kid past 12 weeks is called) we talked about this.  If we couldn't have natural children, we would have worked to become adoption eligible.
Second, and perhaps the most important aspect in all of this (that many people miss) is that I want my child.  Some people can adopt without batting an eye.  Others can't.  It really takes a special person to adopt a child, and I don't think I'm that person.  Maybe I don't give myself enough credit, but I want to see my grandfather's smile on my child's face.  I want to see hints of my mother peaking out in his eyes.  I want to see how much he looks like my husband's family, if he'll giggle like mine or chuckle like his.  I grow my own food, make my own clothes, own my own business.  Why would I do it any other way with my family?
As to the foster kid thing... I still might consider it.  Again, there are criteria that must be met that we do not currently meet, and it's a tough gig.  Those kids often come in with broken hearts.  100% understandable, but I'd have to be very confident in my ability to take care of them and be prepared to lose them on a moment's notice, not to death but to bureaucracy or paperwork or justice, or even back to their own parents (which is the outcome you hope for there).  That's hard.  Love is not so easily thrown away for me... after losing so many of my own, could I let go of a child I loved & see them go to someone else and not know if they are going to be OK?  Am I willing to put myself in a situation where I know my heart will be broken?
"What's wrong with you?"This may seem like a logical question, and when asked with sensitivity it is reasonable. 
But like many couples who either suffer early losses or infertility, the medical answer is "we don't know."  Amazingly, 50% of couples in our situation do not get a definite medical diagnosis.  The good thing is that there's always a chance in the "WDK" category that you can have a healthy, living child.  The bad thing is that you have no logical answers & the human brain craves those.
Small blessings that I ended up with a surgery that fixed whatever the problem was due to a misdiagnosis (All Better! as evidenced by my rather kicky kid) .  So, problem fixed, but lab tests were still inconclusive as to what that problem was.  This leaves us with uncertainty for the future.  We're good at getting pregnant, but once we have a living child, do we risk future pregnancies and possible losses?  How do you tell your son that mommy was going to give them a little brother or sister but now that's not going to happen because they died before they were born?  Moreover, how do you tell your son that he is your ninth child when he's the only one standing here?
"I don't understand why you keep trying.  I'd stop after X miscarriages."
Oddly enough, it's because we want a living child.
You see... there's this state called Parenthood that some people just want to enter into. 
Some don't & that's fine. 
But when you want it, no force on earth can stop that craving but to attain it.
For most couples (and singles), it's easy: want a child, have a child.
Not so easy for some unlucky people.  It becomes all-consuming.  It's your joy, your hope & your grief.  It's faith in the future.  It's love.
What deeper love can there be than what's between parents & their children?
What greater act of love can there be than to create a life through the physical expression of it?
When you have lost... You see, when you bring a life into this world, you've also brought a death into it.  One life, one death.  The only variables are how & when and what you do with the time in between.  My little ones who came before this healthy boy I'm about to birth... I loved them so fiercely.  Even knowing they would never live to draw breath, I loved them.  I begged God to let them stay with me, to grow, to live; and through the tears & the blood I loved them.  Even knowing the grief and the pain about to take us both, I loved them; at that point love was all I could give them, so I flooded them with love.  That painful grief is itself an expression of deep love.  Love is worth risking pain.
So no... you don't stop trying after some arbitrary set number.  You try until you can't try anymore either through emotional exhaustion or physical inability.  And then you may just try once more out of a last desperate hope.
Because that love is worth it.
Today the ones who came before are in my thoughts.  Some had names, some didn't.  Some spoke, some didn't (yes, some pregnancies aren't just weird food cravings & puke, they come with a voice too... it's a bit creepy to start, but it's a reality that science is slowly catching onto).  I wonder if he's one of them come back to me?  It's always possible.  While the body genetics wouldn't be identical, the spirit might be the same. 
I know he's not Brian... lord was that a bad match!  I wish that little soul luck in finding the right parents because we sure weren't it!  Anyone in California near a good surfing spot looking for a totally rad son? 
He's not Her... she was so afraid of life, so afraid of being hurt, so afraid of coming into the world.  I promised I'd love her, that we'd love her and that the world was safer than she thought, that it was beautiful... but she didn't want any of it.  I fought to keep her for a while, then realized that the least I could do was give her the choice out of love, and she fled moments after I told her she could stay or go, that living was her choice. 
The others didn't want to go any more than I wanted to let them go.  Some hovered for a while, not understanding that life wasn't going to happen. Others left when life faded, and perhaps before.  On average women will carry about a week after fetal death, sometimes as much as two.
I buried them all in the same place, a favorite childhood spot.  You see, when you have early losses, depending on your state laws they are not considered human, they are medical waste.  And so with all that love and grief, I should then give my children over to strangers hands in a cold lab to be analyzed & incinerated with the other trash?  No.  I'd rather go without answers and know I buried my babies with dignity.  Understand that is a very personal decision.  One not easily made because the quest for answers is compelling.  So while this was the right decision for me, others may handle this differently.
As of Sunday, my son will be term.  As far as we can tell he's a healthy, fat little baby boy in a good head-down position and moving downward as I type.  He likes music and dislikes gunfire (if you think a 36 week kid can't ninja to the other side of your uterus like an 18 week fetus, just go to a reenactment & stand next to the guns; he about knocked me over).  At least we know he can hear.  He thinks my walk time is his romper time (ya know that myth about "they sleep when you walk"?  Yeah, right).  He wakes up when his daddy comes home & loves to hear him talk, but won't move when someone touches my stomach.  He loves eggs & hates fish.  He's snuck soda by me multiple times (I can no longer count the glasses I've realized I'm drinking on the last swallow), but he's also a fruit eater like me.
We are both healthy.  This pregnancy hasn't always been a picnic, and I was terrified I'd lose him... and I think I would have if we hadn't gotten some really good advice from a retired midwife.  We put me on light duty & bedrest until I could move without pain.  I won't breathe easy until he's out & breathing on his own -  and that's not just because he's kicking me in the diaphragm.   Losses are a blessing and a curse.  You don't rest easy, you don't enjoy the pregnancy, when I bled a while back my heart was ready to break... it turned out to be no big thing, but I was terrified until he moved.  The blessing is that you know exactly how much this little person means to you.  You are keenly aware of their mortality, and of your own.

There are a few days or weeks before our lives change in the biggest way they will perhaps ever change.  All 8 lbs of it.  I know it's not going to be sunshine & rainbows - it's going to be poo & tears & puke & sleepless nights & silly shooshing noises until we hyperventilate... followed by "OMG where's my toddler?!?" standing in the road/up a tree/under a cow...and coming home from school upset about something, and (eek!) romance, and then god only knows what.  I know we'll screw him up somehow, every parent does.
But we'll also have sweet baby-kisses, chubby hands learning to pet a cat, those moments that are the Best Ever, and god only knows what after that, with love.
So, when someone asks "why keep trying?"  This is why.  A chance at life and the deepest love there is.


Unknown said...

Thank you for this - my husband and I have been trying for an extremely long time, and have grown weary of the "when are you guys gonna have a baby already?!" comments. Recently going through an absolutely horriffic miscarriage has just made everything worse.

But we will keep trying. Because of everything you just said.

Much hugs & congratulations!

Gail Kellogg Hope said...

Good luck & a healthy pregnancy to you Noelle.
Losses are always hard, but children are so worth it!

We had a hard time getting adequate medical care because no one knew the right words that we needed to be saying (or asking for). I'm sure we ran across them & they just didn't ring the right bells.

"Perinatologist" was the single most important one. Once we got in to see them things went from "sorry for your loss >shrug<" to "let's figure out what's going on, these are the tests you'll need."