Giving Thanks

We had a great Thanksgiving today.  The weather was gorgeous, so we spent some time outside.  I got lucky photographing a newly hatched Monarch butterfly that had grown up on one of our milkweed plants.  I ended up with some beautiful shots.  Butterflies are one of my least favorite things to photograph.  Sure, they’re beautiful, but they just don’t know how to sit still.  This one had me running circles around my house because it kept flying over the roof from the front yard to the backyard, and then back to the front.    But still, I persisted.  I got some great shots, it eventually disappeared, so I headed back inside.

It was nice to spend time with my family.  The boys watched the Muppet movie marathon, and Joe cooked our Thanksgiving meal.  I went back and forth from watching with the boys (okay, I was mostly on my computer – but I was sitting with them), and helping Joe in the kitchen.  We ended up eating around 5:00pm, and it was delicious.  With my husband as the chef, the food is always good.  Turkey cooked in a brown bag, mirepoix veggies, garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and biscuits.  Oh, and dessert – a pumpkin spiced pudding pie made by me.  I’m full, and probably a couple of pounds heavier, but it was worth it.  🙂

     I am thankful for many things today and every day.  I won’t even try to list them all, but here are some big ones:  my husband, my children (all four of them), my friends, my family, God – for all He is and all that He does, my home, and all the other many blessings in my life.  I hope you all also had a wonderful Turkey Day.  God Bless!!!

     Now, a couple of pics of the Monarch butterfly:

God Is Still God

My new favorite song is ‘God Is Still God’ by Heather Williams.  The first time I heard it was a week after my stillbirth, and I literally felt like she was singing it TO me.  Just me and only me.  I cried, I smiled, I heard her.  I heard HIM.  It was amazing.  I heard the song at least two more times that day, and numerous times over the next few days.  It still feels like my song when I hear it.  It will always be a special song to me.

Getting better…slowly.

Every time I think I’m feeling better, doing better, something knocks me back.  It really doesn’t help that I have at least 7 FB friends who are pregnant and a few more with brand new babies.  It’s hard because I am so happy for all of them and would never wish my experience on them, but even through my joy for them it is painful to hear them talk about their pregnancy.  Hearing about the shopping or assembling of baby items.  Or the normal milestones of a pregnancy – movement (which I had felt, but only a couple of times), ultrasounds (especially the big gender scan), naming, even fetal hiccups, etc.  Everything I’m missing out on.  Everything I SHOULD be experiencing, but am not.  Why?  I know everything happens for a reason and that His plan isn’t the same as ours, but it’s hard to understand His reasons sometimes.  And some, like my story, may never be explained until we get to Heaven.  It’s just hard not knowing.  I dreamt of that baby.  I still do.  The dreams are different now, more haunting than hopeful, but it’s all I’ll know of him/her for a long time.  It’s all I have.

On a much lighter note, it’s been fun spending time with the family I have here.  Just over a week ago I took my boys to one of my favorite places – Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota.  I used to be quite a gardener – I preferred containers over ground gardening -, but I’ve lost my touch since having kids.  Priorities.  So now, I live vicariously through the gardens at Selby.  The greenhouse is my favorite.  It’s where they keep a great majority of their orchids – my favorite flower.  The greenhouse is one of the smaller areas of the garden, but I spend the most time in there photographing the flowers.  The boys always try to rush me through, but I make them wait.  There’s just nothing like having a camera between my face and an orchid.  It’s good for my soul.  And though the greenhouse is my favorite place within my favorite place, the rest of the gardens definitely do not disappoint.  And being there with my boys is always fun.  There’s quite a few trees that they love to climb (the Banyans, the Moreton Bay Fig, and the Bo Tree), so we always have to stop and take a break from walking.  It’s okay with me.  I always find something to photograph – be it them, or some flowers, an insect, or the sky.  Anything.  Eventually we get moving again, and find some more fun and beautiful things to do and see.  Selby is right on the waters of Sarasota Bay.  There’s nothing more tranquil or soothing than a large body of water.  It’s awe-inspiring, and quickly makes us…well, me at least, feel small.  It kind of puts thing into perspective.  I always know the day is coming to an end when we get to the Selby Mansion & the Butterfly Garden.  I used to spend a lot of time trying to photograph the butterflies, but I have stopped stressing myself out like that.  They never sit still!  I end up angry at them, and that’s just silly.  🙂  SO now, I walk through, and if I get lucky, great!  This specific day, I did get lucky.  A Monarch butterfly just sat there and let me snap shot after shot.  It was awesome.  I even got lucky with some bumble bees.  Great day.  It turned out that my body wasn’t quite ready for such a long walk and all the twisting, squatting, and bending that goes along with photography because I ended up being a bit sore, but it was worth it.  I needed it, and the time with the boys was priceless.  Here’s a few pics I took:

Lip of a Cattleya orchid.

Ascocenda with back-lighting.

Jonah getting a koi nibble.

Noah under a huge Elephant Ear plant.

The boys on Selby’s big orchid.

Another fun family event was the family bike ride we took.  We have done it before, but it had been a while.  And before, we couldn’t be out long because Jonah’s stamina was…lacking.  LOL!!  Well, just a few days ago, we managed to ride 4mi. together as a family.  Joe and I were riding regular two-wheelers, but Noah and Jonah were riding their big wheels.  Those weren’t really meant for distance rides, but they did really well.  It was extremely fun, and I can’t wait to do it again soon.  🙂

My Stillbirth Story

So, I have been encouraged to write my story for those who might be interested.  On one hand I know it feels good to ‘write it down’ and get it out, but I also don’t want to seem morbid and weird.  What has happened to me is what it is.  I was encouraged to put it on FB, but for something like this, that seems too public (yes, I posted the link on FB, but those who really care will take the time to actually read it).  For those who stick around to read it, I not only thank you, but I also promise to keep it PG-13 or better.  I also preemptively apologize because this will probably turn out to be a small novel, but, again, it is what it is.

On the evening of Monday 10/17/11 at around 5:30pm Joey, the boys, and me were out to dinner.  While there, I started to feel some cramping.  I had felt the cramping earlier in the pregnancy, and had called my OB’s office to ask them about it because that is what my doc told me to do because I had had a previous c-section.  They said it was probably round ligament pain which I had never had in my previous three pregnancies, but I hadn’t been pregnant since having my c-section with Jonah so it made sense that scarred tissue that was stretching might not feel all that great.  So, when these cramps started I kind of blew it off.  They felt the same as before.  We got home a little later and I was watching my usual show for Monday night – The Sing-Off.  It was about 8:30pm when I got up to go pee, and when I sat down on the toilet I immediately passed two bright red clots and more blood.  I knew the clots were bad news, but tried not to assume anything.  I had Joey call the number my Doc had given me while I got ready to go to the ER – I knew that’s where they would send me.  I ended up talking to the nurse that Joe talked to, answered her questions, followed her instructions, hung up, got ready, and headed to the ER.  I had to go alone.  We have nobody here to watch the boys.  Family-wise we are alone here.  I hated leaving Joey, but it had to be done.  At that point there was no reason to think that I wouldn’t be home in a few hours or that the boys wouldn’t be going to school the next day.  I had hope that everything would be fine.  This kind of thing happens all the time, and the women go on to to carry full term.

I got to the ER just after 9pm that night.  There was a lot of waiting.  I didn’t keep time, so I won’t guess, but it felt like forever.  I was eventually called back to get my vitals.  The nurse asked if they had called for Labor & Delivery, and I said I didn’t know.  She asked a nurse walking by if they had called them, but she said “No, she’s not 18 weeks yet.”  That pissed me off.  I was virtually 17wks.  I felt like time was being wasted, but I’ve always been told I was a trooper, and I’m not one to complain or bitch so I hung in.  The nurse had my finger pricked to check my sugars, took my blood pressure, heart rate, all that crap.  Then she went to draw some blood.  That went fine, and then she sent me for a urine sample.  Went potty to fill that stupid cup, and came back to give it to them.  I remember when I walked in to give them the urine, the nurse said “You’re going to hate me”.  Turns out she forgot to fill one of those tubes with blood, so she had to stick me again.  Thank God I have never had an issue with needles.  My Mother will attest to this.  Even as a newborn I didn’t much complain about being stuck with a needle.  So, I got an extra blood draw and was sent back out into the ER waiting room to wait some more.  Again, it seemed like forever, but I suppose it was only about 15-20mins when my name was called again.  I was taken back to a private ER room.  I remember walking in, having the male nurse (nothing against male nurses) tell me to undress this and that and put on the gown.  The TV in the room was on.  ‘Pretty Woman’ was playing.  One of my favorite movies of all time.  It was weirdly comforting.  I didn’t have anybody with me.  NOBODY.  But this damn movie was comforting.  So weird.

Again, time was…seemingly slow.  I know I will confuse things here and there from this point on, but I’m doing my best.  I remember an ER doc walked in and turned off the TV.  HE TURNED OFF ‘Pretty Woman’!!  I remember being ticked.  How dare he turn off the only familiar thing I had at that time.  But he was there to do a job, and I had to accept it.  He asked all the same questions I had answered more than once.  He told me he wanted to do a pelvic exam (which all preggo people/moms have gone through at some point), but he first wanted to send me for an ultrasound.

I can’t remember when my nurse first came in, but she was awesome.  She was clearly trying to look pretty in her crappy hospital scrubs because she wore this ostentatious pink and purple eye shadow.  She was young (like me?).  Okay, probably younger.  As she was talking to me to tell me somebody was coming to get me for the u/s, the u/s lady walked in.  I was wheeled away on my stupid hospital bed to a different area in the hospital for my u/s.  The tech told me right away that she was not allowed to tell me anything.  She was simply there to take a look, take her measurements, and send me back to the ER.  When she was done doing her thing, she told me she had to go talk to the radiologist to make sure they had the pictures they needed and that the pictures were clear.  Of course, as any mother – and especially a mother who had already had a “late” loss – when she left the room I peeked at the screen.  There was a frozen ultrasound image of my baby.  It looked beautiful, and it felt like that was the last time I’d ever see him/her.  Finally, the u/s tech came back in the room and said the radiologist wanted to come in to look for herself.  They started to do their looking and almost immediately the radiologist told me that they were looking for a heartbeat.  I already knew what was going on, but I still…hoped that I was wrong.  Not even another minute later the radiologist told me there was no heartbeat.  I already knew it, but hated admitting it to myself.  They both left the room, and I lost it.  My 13 week loss was hard on me.  I’m still not over it.  But to have a, virtually, 17wk loss…I never, NEVER, expected it.  I immediately thought of my husband, who was at home with our boys.  What are we going to tell the boys?  What is HE going to tell the boys?

It was already getting very late.  I was taken back to the ER.  My nurse came in to get the pelvic exam table ready and was still being her upbeat, chipper self.  She noticed me tearing up and asked if I was okay.  I asked her if they had told her anything.  She said they hadn’t, so I told her the news.  She started to cry with me and asked if she could hug me.  Of course, I let her.  That hug felt great. Soon after that the ER doc came back in.  I was then told that my OB doc was coming in to give me a D&C.  He asked if the radiologist had told me what was happening, and, of course, I did.  He said that the baby was only measuring at 13wks.  I told him that I didn’t understand that because I had heard and seen the heartbeat at 14wks.  He told me that it was possible that something else was going on to restrict growth and that the demise…took some time.  That hurt me…physically.

My cramps/contractions were getting very painful.  I asked for something to ease them.  The ER doc did a pelvic and said my cervix was open and pouring out blood (sorry, there’s really no nice way to say that) – as if I didn’t know.  When my doc got there he wanted to do his own pelvic to see for himself.  He said it wasn’t as bad as the ER doc had made it seem and he wasn’t sure if a D&C was necessary.  He wanted to think about it.  The nurse then came in with some Dilaudid because my contractions were becoming more painful and frequent.  I called Joe right away to tell him I might pass out, but I’d call in the morning.  He was also going to attempt some sleep.  I’m pretty sure it was around 1:30am at this point.  My nurse then dimmed the lights, said somebody from L&D was coming for me, and then turned the TV back on.  ‘Pretty Woman’ was replaying!  The Dilaudid was working, I could feel it.  I tried hard to stay up and watch the movie, but I think I was in and out of sleep.  I didn’t fully understand why L&D was coming for me, but I didn’t ask.  My thoughts were a little foggy, but the pain was not feeling so bad.

Eventually, L&D came for me.  Maybe around 2am-ish.  From here on, for a little while, things get a little fuzzy.  The details are jumbled.  From this point on and up until perhaps around 5 or 6 am or so I used up my maximum Dilaudid dosages.  I was only allowed four doses and never sooner than every 30mins.  At first, I didn’t need them too often, but as I progressed I needed them more.

After getting to L&D two nurses came in and introduced themselves as “my team”.  Audrey and Linda.  I will NEVER forget those ladies.  They were friendly, sweet, and very understanding and caring.  I was getting the chills – maybe from the blood loss? the drugs? – and they covered me with about four warm blankets.  Ahhh, all better.  The nurse I had spoken to on the phone before leaving the house came to see me.  I also forgot to mention that she came to see me in the ER.  Sweet woman, wonderful, friendly face.  Having her come see me was another comfort I found in a very uncomfortable situation.  I remember they kept “checking” me – a.k.a. pelvic checks.  Again, the drugs were clouding me, but I needed them and loved them.  I also recall that they kept asking me if I wanted an epidural instead of the Dilaudid.  I didn’t understand why they thought I would need or want an epidural.  My pain wasn’t that bad, and, to me, you only need an epidural when you are about to give birth.  I remember another time that – Michelle, I think her name was? (the nurse I had talked to on the phone) – came in and she decided to check me.  I immediately apologized to her for what she saw when she lifted the sheet and blankets, but then, all of a sudden, she was apologizing to me and I didn’t get why.  She turned to Audrey and told her she felt “something”.  I asked what she meant.  She looked at me, apologized, and said that my baby was coming down.  This was the exact moment that everything became clear to me.  Drugged or not, I understood that I was there to deliver my baby…stillborn.

Thank God for those drugs, otherwise I would have literally come apart.  The cloudiness kept me together.  I continued to lay in the bed…and wait.  Since I had gotten to L&D Audrey had been asking me all kinds of questions from a stupidly long questionnaire she was required to go through.  Diseases?  History of intravenous drug use?  History of physical violence?  Past pregnancies, miscarried or living?  Etc, etc.  At the time, they seemed stupid.  But it was also nice to have SOMETHING to talk about.  They asked why I had nobody there with me.  I explained, and they understood.  I told them it was nice to have them with me.  I thanked them profusely for being there.  I told them how I knew they don’t come to work hoping to be with somebody in my situation.  They do what they do because they like to deliver LIVE babies.  They told me to stop, that they were there for all women having babies, including me.  I still felt like I was letting them down.  But there we were, together, doing it all together.

The two of them decided to check me as “my team”, and after lifting the blankets and seeing what was there, they asked me to push.  I did.  Once.  That was all it took.  I didn’t feel pressure or the need to push, but I felt the baby come out.  It was 3:55am on October 18, 2011.  It was odd.  Audrey immediately checked the baby, and that was when we found out why he/she had passed.  She said the cord was wrapped numerous times around the neck.  I recall (I still couldn’t see the baby at this point) seeing her hand make the unwrapping motion.  Her hand made that circle at least four times.  Maybe five.  The cord was very thin, like string.  They didn’t cut it right away.  They wanted to wait for my placenta to pass.  I still hadn’t seen the baby.  They left it “down there”, and had covered me back up.  There was a point where they both left the room and I was alone.  I started to lift the blanket to look, but then I chickened out.  I needed to think.  Do I want to look?  Will I regret it if I don’t?  As I decided that I needed to look at MY baby they came back into the room.  They checked for the placenta.  Still nothing.  Eventually they asked if I wanted to see the baby.  I said yes.  They showed me the baby, and all I will say here is that it looked like a baby, and in a way, he/she was beautiful.  It belonged to me.  Again, for reasons I don’t want to get into, all I will say is that there was no way to tell if it was a boy or girl.  It was clearly not the size of a “typical” 16+wk baby, but it was there, it was mine, and I LOVE it.

After about an hour since i had delivered, my placenta still had not passed.  My doctor ordered to have me put on a high dose of Pitocin.  EVIL pitocin.  My contractions almost immediately got to be unbearable.  That was when I got my final shot of dilaudid.  It didn’t help much at all.  Pitocin is the worst.  The nurses then told me that my only option was the epidural.  I told them to give it to me.  The anesthesiologist came pretty quickly and administered the epi.  The relief was wonderful.  I slept on and off between having my nurses ask me to try to push to deliver the placenta.  Nothing.  I got to sleep some more.  Some time in the later morning (which is early to some people, but still seemed ‘late’ to me) they said I needed a D&C to get the placenta out.  I hadn’t progressed enough.  I remember thinking that it was probably too early to call Joey, but he needed to know what was going on.  He said he was going to sleep with the phone the last time we had talked, so I knew he’d hear it.  We talked for a bit, and said good-bye.  My “team” nurses came in one more time to inform me they were leaving.  Shift change.  Audrey asked if I wanted a chaplain to come bless or baptize the baby.  (I realize here I have skipped over a few parts, but that’s because I don’t think everything needs to be told).  I said I didn’t feel the need for a baptism, because my baby was where he/she was supposed to be – in heaven with his/her Creator.  GOD.  I did think a blessing would be nice so I asked to have the chaplain come to see…us.  I met my new nurse, and liked her right away.  After introductions and sad good-byes, my new nurse, Angie, left for a few moments, but when she came back she said my D&C was on hold for at least an hour because there was an emergency c-section being performed.  Been there.  Done that.  No complaints from me.  During my wait the chaplain came.  Very sweet and personable man.  He asked if the baby was still in the room and I directed him to where they had put it.  He got it and asked if I had a name.  I so wanted to tell him something, but, as I said, the sex was indiscernible.  I hated not having a name, but what was I to do?  He said it was fine, and then asked if I wanted the bless and/or baptize the baby.  Again, I told him I didn’t need it baptized, but a blessing would be nice.  He asked if he could anoint it.  I said yes.  I have only learned of anointing from my husband’s family.  I, honestly, don’t fully understand the ritual, but I knew Joe would approve so I said it was okay.  He anointed the baby, prayed over it’s body, and then asked if he could pray over me.  Um, of course.  PLEASE!  He said a prayer over me and with me.  It was awesome.  Just awesome.

A little after that, a cute little Asian woman came into my room and introduced herself as my new anesthesiologist, Susan (Joe called her Susie when she was there for Jonah’s birth, after his favorite Aunt).  It was the same one who gave me my epi for my birth with Jonah!  Again, comfort and familiarity in an uncomfortable time!  Of course, she didn’t recognize me, but that’s fine.  I knew her and that’s all that mattered.  She asked how I was doing and I told her I was starting to feel some pain again.  She said she was there to give me more meds to prepare me for my D&C.  She walked around the bed to get to my epi catheter and discovered that it was disconnected.  She told me she needed to remove it right away because it had left me open to infection, and that if I was feeling pain then it had been disconnected for at least one hour.  On top of that, I now needed a spinal in order to get my D&C.  Great.  All I needed was more needles in my spine.  All in all, I got 5 total.  During my spinal, I could feel her messing around in my spine, so that’s why I got the extra shot.  Not fun, but again, my non-fear of needles helped me through it.  My Doctor came into the room right after the spinal was inserted.  They laid me down and started to prepare me.  Arms out to my sides like a cross, legs in lifted stirrups.  I started to cry.  I’d had a bad D&C with my previous loss that left me in excruciating pain.  For some reason, I was also afraid that I would die on that table and leave my husband and children alone, like I was feeling at that moment.  It was probably the effect of all the drugs, but it’s how I felt.  Susan noticed that I was “anxious”, and asked if she could give me something.  Sure, why not?  Whatever she gave me knocked me out.  Thank God.  I didn’t want to be awake for it anyway.

When I woke up, they were done and moving me to another room.  We got to the room, and it was nice for a hospital room.  It had a whole wall of windows with a view of a huge tree.  The room I had been in before had had no windows.  It was dark.  This room was bright and full of natural light.  God’s light.  I loved it.  My stuff (purse, phone, clothes, etc) had not traveled with me.  I NEEDED to call Joey.  Angie was not allowed to leave my room.  She had to stay with me for an hour to keep an eye on me.  She sent another nurse to retrieve my belongings.  When my stuff arrived I called Joey right away.  He had just woken up, and was getting ready to tell the boys the news.  I kind of wished I was there with them, but I was also glad I wasn’t.  I probably would have made it worse.  They were coming to see me soon, anyway, and I couldn’t wait.  I then took some time to send some texts to important people in my life.  We didn’t say anything to anybody the night before because, at first, we had some hope that things would be okay.  Then, as things were going on, texting and Facebook’ing were the last things on my mind.  I first texted my Mom.  Then I sent a group text to my sis, my BFF, and my SIL.  Another hour or so later, Joey and the boys arrived and the visit was nice.  It was great to see them.  I love them and had missed them so much.  They left after about a couple hours, maybe.  Hospitals are just no fun for young children and Joey wanted to get home to get some dinner ready for all of us.  I was going to be discharged soon.  I was eventually discharged, and since I had driven myself there, I had to drive myself home.  It was fine.  I could, and did, do it with no problems.  But, before I left, Angie gave me an Honorary Birth Certificate.  I loved it, and immediately made plans to have it framed along with the only ultrasound pics I’d gotten at my 10wk u/s.

I’m still dealing with the pain of my loss.  It will never go away, but it’s getting better each day.  I got my framed items back today, and I immediately hung the pic up in the spot I had chosen for it.  I’m doing my best and enjoying the family I do have here with me.  I have two children in heaven with their Grandfather, Grandmother, Great-Grandparents, Great-Aunt, a very loving Cousin, and lots more family there with them.  I know they are loved and well taken care of.  I can’t wait to meet them, but I’m in no rush to leave my earthly family.

Again, if you made it through this, I thank you.  Please leave a comment if you did make it through.  Something, anything.  I promise I’ll do some more fun/happy entries after this.  🙂