Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Story of You

Today is a very important day. This is what I see as I sit here typing this:

This is my sweet one month old snuggling on my chest. I cannot even begin to describe how faithful and loving and gracious my God is. Especially when I pause to consider that my son should not even be here. Yet here we are, celebrating one whole, perfect, beautiful month with our sweet, sweet boy.

As we have journeyed through this pregnancy there were so many times I wanted to pour out my heart through writing our story, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Somehow, in the back of my mind I had this completely irrational fear. My fear was that if I put it out there, what God was doing in our lives, then I would somehow jinx it. Somehow, someway, it would all come crashing down.

I know it seems really silly. But here’s what you have to understand about me. I am one of THOSE people. You know the type. I believe the word used to describe us is “pessimistic”. I really hate that word. Mostly because I don’t want to be that way. But I am not the type of person who trusts easily or believes that good things will happen to me if I just have enough faith or pray enough or whatever. In fact, usually the opposite is true. I generally have a conscious thought process that goes a little like this: “I am going to expect that the absolute worst is going to happen. That way when it does happen I am prepared for it and not too disappointed. And if by some slim chance the worst that I am expecting doesn’t happen, well then I will be pleasantly surprised.” I prefer the term “realistic” to “pessimistic”. But, I guess if I am realistic with myself I have to admit that I am a pessimist.

And let me just tell you, it totally sucks being that way. I hate it sometimes. I hate that I drag other people down with me sometimes. I hate that it can make life pretty darn depressing sometimes. But I can never seem to rise above it.

I mean, sure, I have hope. I know what hope is and I can say with all sincerity and honesty that I am a hopeful person. Because I guess at the end of the day, even though I am expecting that worse-case scenario, I am hopeful for something more. Well, that is where the story of my son begins and ends.

Rick and I decided about a year ago that we wanted to start trying to conceive again. So I started all my usual routines to be sure that happened-taking my temperature each morning, charting and writing everything down so we would know exactly when the best time to try was. Luck favors the prepared, you know.

I thought it would be so nice to have a spring baby. Our last son has been born in the thick of the cold and flu season and I had wanted to avoid all of that and get past the stress of the holidays before having another baby. So we thought we would shoot for April, hoping that we would get pregnant within a couple of months.

The first month went by and nothing. I charted and tracked my temperatures and did everything I was supposed to. And nothing. I took a pregnancy test as soon as I could and it was negative. I was sad, but expecting that, not totally devastated. We still had a couple of months left to hit that magic window of having our spring baby.

Not surprisingly, 28 days after I had my last period the next one came-I’m telling you they wrote the text books after me (my apologies if that is way more information than you wanted to know about me but it is important to the story). So we decided we would start trying again.

However, 2 weeks later, as I was sitting in church on a Sunday morning-August 16 to be exact, I could feel that something wasn’t quite right. I started having some unusual cramping and I went to the bathroom and sure enough I was bleeding. Because I am so particular about tracking my cycles I knew that this was not normal. It had only been two weeks since my last cycle. I was at church by myself because Rick had worked the night before and needed to sleep. So I made the decision to go ahead and leave and I called him on the way home. I was almost 100% positive that I was having a miscarriage.
I made two more phone calls on the way home. The first one was to the on-call OB/GYN explaining the situation. He lovingly tried to calm me down and reassure me that this was probably perfectly normal bleeding and that I was just early. I assured him that doesn’t happen to me, that I am very regular and I was sure I was miscarrying, even though I had had a negative pregnancy test. He told me to go home and take a pregnancy test and call him back if it was positive. My third phone call was to my dear friend Melissa, who was with her family in Chicago. I am pretty sure she stopped right there on the streets to pray for me. I am sure I was a total blubbering fool at that point as I don’t remember much of what was said, but I know she cried and prayed with me.

So a few minutes later I arrived home and took a pregnancy test. Sure enough, as I thought, it was positive. I just didn’t know what to do or think or feel in that moment. It was one of those worst case scenarios/hoping for something better moments. I called the OB back and he told me to go to the Emergency Room. So I gathered up the boys (Madison was in Florida) and Rick and we all headed to the ER.

By this time the cramping and bleeding had become quite severe. I was an emotional wreck and there was very little they could do at the hospital to make anything better. They drew some blood to check my hormone levels. They measured at 2700, which basically meant that they could not tell me anything I didn’t already know. Hospital policy dictates that they cannot do an ultrasound until your HcG levels reach 3000 so there was no way of knowing if the baby had implanted in the wrong place, was viable at all, or if a miscarriage was inevitable. As I walked out of the ER, a nurse said, “Congratulations” as she handed me my take-home instructions for impending miscarriage. It was like a total slap in the face and to be honest I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to ask her what in the world she was thinking telling me congratulations when my baby was dying. I wanted to tell her she was the most insensitive person I had ever met. But I didn’t say any of those things. We just went home in a cloud of confusion and despair, with no more answers than we had come in with.

Over the next two days the bleeding slowly faded and I assumed that the miscarriage was complete. Let me back up a little bit here and say that we have travelled this road before. In 2004 we buried our second baby, lost in my first trimester. All of those emotions and questions came flooding back in an instant when we realized we were losing another baby. I remember asking God why? You know, that question that we all ask when tragedy strikes, that we rarely receive answers for. I remember being so angry and telling God, very matter of factly, that I absolutely, unequivocally could not do this again. Yet here we were.

I was instructed by my OB’s office to come in that following Tuesday so that they could repeat the blood draw to be sure that my hormone levels had returned to normal. This would help them to determine if I had retained any of the tissue and if I would need surgery. I told my doctor’s nurse that the nurse at the ER had told me “congratulations”. I asked her to be straight with me. I just wanted someone to give me the odds that this was actually a viable pregnancy. She said with the amount of bleeding I had and with the cramping, probably not. Oddly enough, I took some comfort in her words. At this point I just wanted it to be over with and I so desperately wanted someone to tell me the truth so I could stop hoping for something I could never have and I could begin the recovery process.

Late Tuesday afternoon that same nurse called me and said, “Your numbers went up.” She said she didn’t know what that meant except that I was still pregnant and that I needed to come in so they could verify that it wasn’t an ectopic pregnancy. I still had been bleeding this whole time so of course now I feared that next worst-case scenario-an ectopic that would lead to surgery that would damage my chances to ever have children again.

On Wednesday morning, with much anxiety and fear, we stepped into the OB’s office for an ultrasound. Lo and behold, as soon as she turned on the machine, what did we see but a tiny little heart beat? This was totally unbelievable to me. The baby was right where he was supposed to be and was measuring right at 6 weeks. That meant that when I took that pregnancy test before it was a false negative. We had gotten pregnant our first try.

The ultrasound technician noted a spot in behind the placenta that was causing the bleed. The official diagnosis was that of a “subchorionic hematoma”. Basically, that meant that the placenta was having trouble attaching completely and that there was a bleed in behind it. I went home with instructions for modified bed rest­-no lifting, no exercising, limited activity. She could have chained me to my bed and I couldn’t have been more elated. The tech also remarked that it was a good thing that they had not done an ultrasound in the ER because they would have only seen an empty sac with no heartbeat. The baby’s heart had probably just started beating that very day. If they had done the ultrasound they may have recommended a D&C to remove the rest of the fetal tissue. Oh my, God is good!!!

So, true to form, I came home that night and did lots and lots of internet research on subchorionic hematomas. I realized that we were not completely out of the woods. Many people with these kinds of bleeds go on to have other issues later in their pregnancy, such as placental abruption-where the placenta detaches prematurely from the wall of the uterus-a life-threatening condition for both mom and baby. Another common problem is pre-term labor.

So over the course of the next week, as my fear and worry got the better of me I placed numerous calls to my OB’s office asking questions about this and that. And while they were gracious each time to answer all my questions, the nurse finally said, “You know, we just need to focus on getting you out of the first trimester. We can’t do anything about any of those other things yet.” I realized she was right and I started to relax…a little.

Unfortunately, on August 30, at Chuck E Cheese of all places, where we were celebrating my daughter’s birthday, again I started to feel like not everything was right. It started off slow, but before too long I was having cramps so bad I could barely stand. I was determined to make it through the birthday party but when we got home I immediately got in bed. I was crying from so much pain but I was having no bleeding or anything. However, some part of me just knew it was only a matter of time. This was it: we were losing the baby for sure this time.

As I was lying in bed, and Rick was struggling to find a way to help me and the kids were getting more and more concerned about Mommy, I felt myself start to bleed again. But I was completely paralyzed-there was so much blood I could feel it coming out in huge clumps and gushes. I couldn’t even get to the bathroom. Finally, after several minutes I made it there and was completely devastated by what I saw. I was passing clots the size of my fist. I just cried and cried to Rick that we were losing our baby. I have never been so scared in my whole life.

Finally, I have no idea how, I got myself composed enough to call the OB who of course instructed us to head to the ER. First we met my in-laws who took the kids for us for the night and then we headed to the ER. We debated this decision because we knew if we were miscarrying that they could do nothing for us. But the next day was Madison’s birthday and I didn’t want to remember that day forever as the day we learned our baby had died, so we went to the ER.

Once at the ER they ran all the usual tests and did all the usual exams. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, the ultrasound tech came in. There in plain sight was our little baby’s heartbeat, beating stronger than ever.

We were utterly and completely shocked. Our baby was still hanging on! His growth was perfect. He was beautiful. But we still weren’t out of the woods. We knew the chances of our baby’s survival at this point were very slim-the hematoma was growing and the cramping and bleeding weren’t showing any signs of slowing down. My OB’s office wasn’t giving us a whole lot of hope. They even told me I couldn’t stand up in my sister’s wedding, which was scheduled for September 9…in Las Vegas. After much crying and pleading on my part, my OB relented, giving me strict instructions to go to the wedding and come back, no walking, no sight-seeing, nothing!

Over the next couple of months, I continued to bleed. It was a scary time. During this time, I had to learn to trust more, even though it is never my first inclination to do so. God was asking me to trust Him. It is a hard time in a pregnancy anyway-that time before you feel the reassurance of daily movement and sweet little flutters in your belly, before your belly has grown big enough that you are confident of the new life developing within you. It was a time of complete and utter trust in God. Not even so much trust that everything would work out, or the baby and I would be okay-but trust that this whole time God knew what He was doing, and that no matter what happened He was holding me.

Then at around 16 weeks of pregnancy I started to feel this new little life within me. I could hardly believe it. I treasured every movement. I am sure there were plenty of times standing in line at the grocery store, or waiting on Madison at the gym or sitting in church that I just sat there with a silly grin on my face feeling the miracle of life and looking like a complete fool.

Three weeks later another ultrasound confirmed that the truly amazing had indeed happened…a miracle in my own life. My SON (this was the point at which we found out it was indeed ANOTHER boy) was perfectly healthy, as was his placenta which gave absolutely no indication of ever having a problem to begin with.

I have to say, that although I believe in miracles, I never really thought one would happen to me. I always thought that was just something that happened to other people, never really anyone I knew. I had heard the stories though, and of course believed in the miracles described in the Bible, but they always seemed so far removed from my everyday life. I had prayed for miracles before, only to have my prayers go unanswered (or not answered the way I wanted). Of course, I prayed for a miracle for our baby but never really thought I would get one. We had thoroughly prepared ourselves to bury another child.

But a miracle he is. The rest of my pregnancy had its ups and downs and gave me plenty of more opportunities to learn to trust. I never truly settled in and felt completely comfortable that I would deliver a healthy baby boy. There was always the question in the back of my mind, up to the moment they pulled him out, is he really okay? Did God really intend for us to have this child?

Yet despite all my doubt and lack of trust here sits my son, Ethan Richard, whose name means strength. Not only has he proved himself strong over and over, the journey we have had with him has afforded us many opportunities to grow and strengthen our faith and trust in our faithful God.
I cannot explain how Ethan is here or why God chose to give him to us and not our other baby. I cannot explain why God allows some women to endure untold pain through infertility and pregnancy loss, and yet others get to hold their babies safely in their arms. All I know is that our God is a God who still works miracles, who is still on the throne and who is forever faithful in ALL things. God gives and God takes away and His name will forever be praised.
Happy 1 month birthday Ethan!


Loving Life said...

AMAZING! God is AMAZING! This story is AMAZING! You are an amazing woman!

Becca Crane, BSN, RN, PHNS, CLNC, CHPN said...

My darling daughter, do you not know that you too are a miracle? While carrying you, at around 3 months, I required surgery for appendicitis. I felt so sick when coming out of the anesthetic (a spinal to protect you), I felt liquid between my legs and thought you were gone. Low and behold, you hung in there. Then about 2 weeks before you were born, your big sister was so ill and hospitalized. I had terrible bronchitis but never left Anjie's side. I lost 8 pounds in 4 days. Each time I coughed, I leaked amniotic fluid. But again, you hung on to life. Two weeks later, my miracle child was born. I love you daughter. God loves you. Ethan will always be a reminder of that.