Still sinking

I feel like my life is still sinking. I dislike my job. OK. Let me be honest here. I hate my job. It is unfulfilling. In college I worked part time as a soda jerk in a fifties diner. I found that job way more fulfilling than my current job, which is in my field of study. It’s not my field that I dislike, it’s this job specifically. I have almost no responsibilities at this job and even less ability to make any sort of decision whatsoever. When I was a soda jerk, at least I had a purpose. I had duties. I had responsibilities. I had things to keep me busy and occupied. I was good at my job. I got compliments. I got recognition.

In my current job I feel like my supervisor feels threatened by me and deliberately gives me very little to do. It’s hard to strive to be good at your job when you don’t really have a job to do. I have discussed my lack of duties and his expectations with him multiple times since I started working there. It always fell on deaf ears and nothing really changed. Eventually I documented my concerns in an email and cc’d his boss so she knew I was having a problem. That got his attention. But produced a lot of empty promises, some of which made it into a revised job description. Except he still isn’t letting me do the work, even though he told me that I would be the one responsible for doing it.

On top of my work woes, I feel like I’m stuck in limbo on the reproductive front. My husband doesn’t want to rush into IVF again. He wants us to take some time off before we put ourselves through all of that stress again. I turn 34 next month and can feel the reality of motherhood moving further from my reach with each passing day that we don’t move forward with another round of treatment. A treatment with only a 50/50 chance of success each time. A chance that will begin to decrease next year.

If my body refuses to let me become a mother, and I hate my job, then what am I doing with my life? If the things that I wanted so bad are out of my reach, do I need to find new things? A new purpose?

I’m Still Here

It has been nearly three months since we lost our twins. There are now more days that I don’t cry than days that I do. The hole in my heart that made it seem impossible to go on is still with me every day. But it is growing easier to bear.

But life still likes to test my strength from time to time. What would have been my due date is almost here, so I have been getting baby related coupons and advertisements in the mail. (Thank you, Baby Registries). This week I received baby formula coupons on the same day as an invitation from the hospital for a memorial service for deceased loved ones. The next day I was cornered by a co-worker who tried to empathize with me because he and his wife also struggled with infertility and did IVF to have their child. After he left, I had a good cry in the bathroom. I had been ignoring talking about everything for a while. So being forced to think/talk about it was harder for me than I realized.

And then, in the grand masochistic icing on the cake for this week, I decided to start filling out our federal income tax return last night. I had to put our two daughters as new births/new dependents/deceased all on the same return. When your baby didn’t live long enough to get a social security number but was not stillborn, you are required to write “DIED” in the space for her social security number if you claim her on your income taxes. Lovely. “DIED” written twice in all capital letters, staring back at me on the computer screen next to my daughters’ names. In order to submit my taxes, I had to order copies of the girls’ birth certificates from the state. Sixty dollars to prove to the federal government that they existed. If my daughters had been stillborn, there would be no birth certificates acknowledging their existence, and I wouldn’t get to claim them on my taxes at all. But my daughters were born alive, even if they only lived a few minutes in my husband’s arms. A small legal distinction that makes a big difference as far as income taxes go.

With the unexpected extra money we will get back on our income taxes, my husband wants to take a trip to either Yosemite or Glacier National Park this spring. I have mixed emotions about this. The ability to take a trip like this in the spring, for me, is another reminder that my girls didn’t survive. If they had, we would have young infants to care for and wouldn’t be able to take a trip across the country. But I have to try to stop thinking like that, because I could use it as an excuse not to do a lot of things that I have no reason not to enjoy. And I know that I would enjoy the trip once I was there. Now to just get myself to start planning!

Fake it ‘Til You Make It

Yesterday was a bad day. I can feel my period coming on so my hormones are shifting again. Every time they shift, I turn into a crying, blubbering mess. When I got home from work I was upset and feeling anxious. I had a beer to try to relax me a little bit. It only made me worse. My husband came home from work to find me lying in bed with our dog, hugging the twins’ receiving blankets and sobbing uncontrollably. When will this pain end?

I would love to feel normal again, whatever that even is. At work and family holiday gatherings I have been faking it. A forced smile here. A fake laugh there. I am transparent though. I know they can see my pain. Most people have avoided it, not knowing what to say. Not wanting to make me cry. Some have been braver and tell me they are sorry or ask how I am. Sometimes I appreciate it, other times I would rather be left alone. The stall in the women’s restroom at work has seen me cry a lot these past two weeks.

Tomorrow is a new year. I am hopeful that 2016 will finally be my year. But 2015 will see me in my pajamas on the couch with a glass of wine one more time tonight. The forced social interactions can wait until next year.

The Birth Story – Not Everyone Takes a Baby Home (Part Two)

I have been struggling with finishing Part 2 of my birth story. I didn’t realize how difficult this would be. I have written and deleted parts of the story three different times. Nothing I write seems to capture my  story or honor my girls. But I have decided that I will feel that way no matter how I tell my story. So here is my last and final attempt.

After we began the induction with the suppository, nurses and the doctor came and went. Some came to give me more medicine through my IV or to change my IV bags. Some came to check my vitals. One nurse asked me how I was feeling and if I had any pain. For the most part though, the nurses tried to leave me alone and avoided talking to me as much as possible. I don’t know if they were trying to let me grieve privately or if they just didn’t know the words to say, but it hurt more that they didn’t say much of what they were doing or asking me how my contractions were progressing or telling me about what I could expect to happen.

Around 10:00 pm I asked the one nurse for some pain medication. I wasn’t really in that much pain, I just had strong menstrual cramps, but I wanted to try to sleep and I was hoping that the medicine would help. Plus I wanted to feel as little physical pain as possible. The nurse injected some medication into my IV, and within a few minutes, I felt really drunk. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep, but it was so noisy I couldn’t. There were people in labor in both of the rooms adjacent to mine, and these rooms were not very sound proof. I put the TV on again, trying to mask the noise, but that didn’t work. At some point the nurse came in to check on me again and I asked for ear plugs. Luckily she found me some and they worked beautifully to drown out the sound of crying newborns, ecstatic new parents and grandparents, and doctors saying “OK, now push!”

I had finally dozed off and was abruptly awakened by my doctor around 2:30 am. He came to check my dilation and give me more medication. He must have just delivered one of the babies next door. He told me to get some rest and left again. I wasn’t able to sleep again after that. I just laid there in the bed, listening to a baby cry. Grandparents next door thanking the doctor for delivering all of their grandchildren. A nurse asking about something that happened during the delivery. Why did they ever put me in Room #4? Didn’t they have a quieter room off in the corner somewhere where I didn’t have to be in the middle of all of this? I felt it was too late now to ask this; I was already settled in to this room and didn’t feel like having to move. By this point my bleeding had also increased and I was bleeding all over and didn’t feel like having to deal with moving down the hall.

In the morning I ordered some breakfast and put the TV on so I didn’t have to sit in silence. The nurse brought us some coffee and cookies and said that the doctor would be in again soon. I didn’t really have any cramping anymore and mentioned this to the doctor when he came in. He checked my cervix again (I was only about 2 cm dilated), and increased the dosage of the suppositories.

Throughout the rest of the day, nurses would come in again with IV bags or to get my vital signs. I declined anymore pain medicine because I didn’t want to feel out of it. They had slowly started to bring us forms and questionnaires to fill out, and I wanted to be clear headed when I was making decisions.

A nurse came in and got my fingerprints for a set of forms. She deliberately didn’t mention what the forms were for and tried to be quick so I couldn’t see what the forms were. But I knew that they were birth certificate forms. They had empty spaces for the babies’ footprints and hand prints. For each form they brought there were always two to fill out: two birth certificates, two death certificates, two custody certificates. I also received a questionnaire about how we would like to handle the delivery and afterwards. Things like: Did we want to hold the baby? Did we have a special outfit to put on the baby? Did we want to have the baby baptized? Did we want to have the baby cremated? Did we want a birth and death announcement in the local paper? All things that I never imagined that I would ever have to think about. All things that I really didn’t want to have to answer while I was tired and emotional. But there was no other time to make these decisions.

My husband and I chose to have a local funeral home cremate the babies and then put their ashes in a monument for lost babies that was on the hospital grounds. We didn’t want to have their ashes around as constant reminders that our babies were gone, but we wanted a place where we could visit them if we ever needed or wanted to. The thought of having to go and pick up our children and take them home with us in tiny little urns was too much to bear. The local funeral home offered the cremation free of charge. I have told myself that the decisions we made were right for us at the time, and helped us get through the very difficult process. I can’t wish that I would have done something differently now.

Lunch passed and dinner passed with visits from the doctor and more suppositories. It seemed that the suppositories would cause some cramping for about two hours after getting them, then they would wear off until I got more. The doctor gave me my last dose of the suppositories around 5:30 pm, about 24 hours after having first started to initiate induction. He said that I was still not quite dilated to 4 cm, but that once I was there to expect things to move much more quickly. He asked if I was having cramping and then left.

That evening I began to feel that I had hit my emotional breaking point and began to get annoyed and irritable with the nursing staff. Many of them had irritated be before this, but I had held back from letting it show. But by around 10:30 pm (28 hours from initial induction), I didn’t care anymore and started snapping at them. I freaked out at the nurse who came in to disconnect me from the monitors so that I could use the restroom. I asked her how much longer they were going to put me through this because I was exhausted and emotional and had barely slept and hadn’t felt a cramp in nearly 3 hours and it had been over 24 hours since this whole thing started. “I just want to get this over with!” I angrily snapped at her. I was pretty upset at this point as well, because we agreed to the induction due to the risk of infection in me. I started wondering how much of a risk it really was if the doctor seemed to be in no hurry anymore to deliver these babies. The nurse said that they would call the doctor.

About 15 minutes later, the nurse came back in with more medication. She checked my cervix. In addition to another higher dose of suppositories, she started an IV of pitocin. She really didn’t say anything else. She didn’t tell me at all what to expect. She didn’t mention anything about the pitocin causing very strong and frequent contractions. She just quickly left the room. Well, within about five minutes, the pitocin sure was doing its job because the contractions seemed to come out of no where and be one right after the other. They were painful, but manageable at first. About fifteen minutes after starting the pitocin, the nurse came back in and turned back the dosage on my IV a bit. I asked her if I could have some pain medicine. She came back with another injection for my IV. The contractions were getting stronger, but since she lowered the dose of the IV, they had gotten a little further apart. The pain medicine didn’t seem to be doing anything to help the pain, which was getting worse. The night nurse came in to say she would be with me the rest of the night, and I freaked out at her, crying that no one was telling me anything about what was happening or what to expect. I told her that I had never been in labor before, didn’t have any other children, and all of this had happened too early for me to have even gone to a birthing class yet. Her initial look of annoyance at me freaking out on her suddenly changed to one of shock and sadness. She explained to me what would happen, what symptoms or feelings I should tell them about, and when they would call the doctor. This calmed me down some, and she left. My contractions continued to get even stronger very quickly. I couldn’t take the pain anymore, nor did I really want to since I knew that this labor and birth was not going to result in live babies. There was no reason for me to suffer through these strong labor pains. My husband went and asked the nurse if there wasn’t something stronger that they could give me because the pain medication they had given me wasn’t working. The nurse said that I could have an epidural and I said yes.

It took over an hour for the anesthesiologist to come to give me the epidural. By this point my contractions were so strong that I couldn’t even think or see clearly during their peaks. The anesthesiologist asked me what I did for work right in the middle of one of the contraction peaks, and all I could get out was, “I can’t remember right now.” Finally the epidural was in place, and the nurse helped me to lie back. The anesthesiologist said that I would still feel strong menstrual cramps for a little bit until the epidural fully kicked in. But my contractions were still pretty painful and I would definitely put them at worse than strong menstrual cramps. I mentioned this to the nurse who was going to put in a catheter, and she said that the epidural took about 30 minutes to fully work. The anesthesiologist also gave me two ambien so that I could calm down and sleep for about two hours. I had never taken ambien before, but the sound of being able to sleep for a few hours was too tempting to say no, so i took the ambien. Before letting me get some rest, the nurse wanted to check my dilation one more time.

As she checked me, she got this look on her face. “What position is the first baby in again?” She asked. “It’s breech,” I told her. “Hmm. Well I think I feel body parts. Let me get another nurse to be sure.” Another nurse came in and she also checked my cervix and agreed that the first baby was already coming. “I’ll go call the doctor. Just wait.” So much for sleep. Now I was going to have to try to stay awake through the ambien, because I had already taken it. But I soon discovered that ambien acted as an amazing anti-anxiety medication for me. I was feeling much more calm and relaxed than I had been just a little while earlier, but I still felt completely alert.

The doctor arrived, checked me, and confirmed that it was time. A few pushes (though thanks to the epidural I couldn’t tell if I was really pushing in the right place or not) and the first baby was out. It was 2:17 am. It was a girl. A precious little baby girl making no sound. There were no cries. No attempts to breathe. The nurse cleaned her off and laid her on my chest. I held her and kissed her and she weakly grabbed a hold of my finger. Before I could really even get a good look at her, the nurse was taking her from me and handing her to my husband. The second baby was coming. This baby was transverse, so I knew she was going to be a bit more difficult to deliver. The doctor had me push a few times. Then using forceps, he helped guide the baby head first and she was out at 2:21 am. Again there was silence. No cries. No gasps for air. The doctor said that this baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped all around her. He asked my husband if he wanted to cut the cord, but he declined. They laid the baby on my chest. She may have been silent, but she was still moving. She grabbed my finger like her sister did. I was so happy to hold her while she was still alive. But I only got to hold her for a moment, and the nurse was already taking her from me and handing her off to my husband. They asked us about names. My husband and I had each chosen a name. I told my husband he could decide which baby to give each name.

While my husband held our girls, I noticed that the doctor started to get a bit concerned. He wanted me to try to push to get the placenta out. I tried to push, but nothing happened. At the next contraction, he had me push again as hard as I could, but still nothing. After a few more pushes, he was getting more concerned. He tried to help get the placenta out, but it wouldn’t budge. From this part on, my memory of delivery is very spotty. I remember the doctor telling the nurse, “Call them and tell them to bring the tubes now!” My husband said that I had turned completely white and that my blood pressure and heart rate dropped so low that the monitors started going off. I was losing a lot of blood and quickly. My placenta would not detach. My husband said that they put in another IV in my shoulder and started squeezing in bags of fluids and pitocin into both of my IVs. I remember the nurse coming back in with a phone in her hand. The doctor asked her if she had called the tube people. She said yes, they said they were on their way. She didn’t sound concerned in the slightest at this point. Agitated, the doctor told her to call them again and tell them to get here fast. I was ready to throw something at the nurse at this point and yell, “Can’t you tell that this is an emergency, lady!?”

Finally, more people arrived. They had some sort of contraption with a long tube hooked up to it. There was also someone with an ultrasound machine. All in all, there were about half a dozen or so people in the delivery room now. Some were pumping me full of medicine. Some were getting equipment set up. Some kept asking me how I was and if I was ok. My husband said that I was very calm and just kept chatting away to everyone. I remember in my head knowing that I had to have been bleeding everywhere, but because of the ambien, I was not nervous or freaked out about it. I figured the doctor was taking care of it and freaking out was not going to help the situation any. I remember having no pain through any of this, just a feeling of a lot or pressure. The doctor started using the tubes to vacuum out the contents of my uterus (basically he was performing a Dilation and Evacuation (D&E), but I was already dilated.) He filled three containers full and I remember him saying that he still needed another one. Finally, after double checking everything on the ultrasound, he was confident that he had gotten everything out and was finished. They inserted some kind of medicine to stop the bleeding and the nurse gave me more pitocin in my IV to help contract my uterus.

While all of this was happening to me, my husband sat off to the side watching, holding our girls as they passed in his arms. I never got a chance to experience their last moments, but I am happy that my husband did. Happy that my husband refused to let them go and held them while they passed.

I was pretty out of it after losing all that blood. I remember them cleaning me up and bringing in a different bed. I must have bled all over the other one. I also remember them mopping a bunch of blood off of the floor and vomiting into a plastic container, nauseous from all of the pitocin. My husband and I were left alone to spend time with our daughters. He put them in my arms so that I could hold them. They were wrapped in homemade crochet blankets and were heavier than I thought they would be. They were beautiful and perfect. I asked my husband to take pictures of them for me, including pictures of me holding them. I didn’t want to ever forget my babies. I was so focused on what was happening during labor that I couldn’t even think to cry. But now, seeing and holding my tiny daughters, the tears were flowing. My husband and I cried together while I held our daughters in my arms.

After a little while the nurse brought me some Sprite to drink. I asked her if she would wheel the babies bassinet over to the side of my bed so that I could see them and have them next to me. When she left the room, I touched each of my girls’ lifeless bodies. I told them I was sorry that I couldn’t save them and that I loved them. Then I passed out from exhaustion, unable to keep my eyes open any longer.

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Rest in Peace. November 25, 2015.

 

The Birth Story – Not Everyone Takes a Baby Home (Part One)

It has been a little over a week since I lost my girls. The emotional pain has been extreme, made worse by the painful physical reminders of birth and the normal drop in hormones that follow after birth. But I am ready to tell my birth story. I hope that with its telling, I will somehow find a bit of comfort and healing.

On Monday, after calling my MFM, I went to Labor and Delivery at the hospital where he has privileges. They were all ready and waiting for me when I arrived. While signing some basic paperwork, they had me sign consents for delivery. This was a bit of a shock to me, as I did not have to sign paperwork like this at the hospital with my regular doctors. The receptionist told me to leave the date blank and we could put in my delivery date later, since we didn’t know when that would be. I remember saying in disbelief, “Delivery? I better not be delivering these babies yet.” The paperwork was complete and they directed me to sit in the waiting room (there were three other people checking in at the same time) and said that they would be seeing me first.

As I sat down in the busy waiting room, the thought of delivering my babies brought tears to my eyes. I tried to keep them away, but it was impossible. A part of me knew that I had an infection (almost all of the symptoms were there) and that I really was coming here to deliver my babies. But there was still a small part of me that had hope that the infection was nothing more than a cold and it could be cleared with antibiotics. A guy in a seat near me noticed that I was crying and gave me a quizzical look. I attempted to ignore him as I concentrated on turning off the tears. After about five minutes a nurse came to escort me past triage and directly into one of the labor and delivery rooms. Room #4. This was not a final sign to me that I really was here to deliver my babies. This was standard procedure for someone who had premature rupture of membranes with bleeding. I had bypassed triage at my local hospital as well.

I don’t think that I will ever forget Room #4. If I am ever lucky enough to deliver another baby, I will refuse to ever be put in Room #4 again. Room #4 was huge. It looked like it was recently redone. It even had hardwood floors instead of ugly hospital tile. But it felt cold. Sterile. Uninviting. I felt so small lying there on that uncomfortable bed in my hospital gown, my feet hanging over the edge of the too short bed. A nurse came to hook me up to the monitors to measure for contractions and check the babies’ heartbeats. They also checked my vitals. In a half hour or so, a doctor and nurse who work with my MFM came to ask me some questions about the symptoms I had been having. They didn’t say much, and left quickly after, saying that my doctor would be over to see me soon.

When they left, I asked one of the nurses to go get my dad from the waiting room (he had driven me to the hospital since my husband was at work). A few minutes later both my mom and dad came through the door. Seeing my mom was a surprise, since I didn’t know she was coming. She had an appointment for regular yearly blood work that morning. My parents sat and waited, watching the monitors from time to time to see what the babies’ heart rates were. I could see that my pulse was elevated and that the babies’ heart rates were also slightly elevated from where they normally were while I was at rest.

In a little while my doctor came in and asked me a few questions again. He said that he was going to start me on IV antibiotics and said that my and the babies’ heart rates were elevated. He said that he would be checking in with the nurses to see how things were progressing. He left for a while, and a nurse came in to get my IV and antibiotics started. Someone from the lab came and drew blood to run some tests and check my white blood cell count. My parents left to go grab some lunch while I sat and waited. After a little while, a nurse came in saying that they were going to admit me and she needed to get a bunch of information to put in my file. As she was asking me all of these questions and telling me that they would admit me at 24 weeks to give me steroids and monitor me until the babies were born, I knew that I wasn’t going to get there. I knew that them admitting me meant that this was it. I humored her and answered her questions, but I knew it was a waste of time. After a little while longer, the nurse who did my IV came back saying that my doctor had added another IV antibiotic (initially I just had two). This was not good.

I texted my husband to give him an update on what was going on. He texted back saying he was leaving work early and would be there as soon as he could. He is a nurse. He knew things didn’t sound good. I texted my mom to tell her that I was being admitted and asked her to bring my stuff up from the car on her way back inside. Then I sat and waited, watching the babies’ heart rates and mine. Seeing no change.

Around 5:30 pm the doctor came back again. He sat down in a chair. It’s never good when doctors sit down in the chair at the hospital instead of standing beside the bed. Right as he sat down, my husband and my mom walked in the room (she had gone down to the lobby to show him where to go). Perfect timing. I wouldn’t be alone to hear this. The doctor told me that my heart rate and the babies’ heart rates were still elevated and that my white blood cell count was high (it had doubled from the day before). The monitor had also picked up that I started having contractions. He said that all signs pointed to me having an infection and he wanted us to induce before I developed severe sepsis. My husband and I asked a lot of questions like couldn’t we try a different antibiotic or wait longer to see if the antibiotics would start to work. He said that he had already tried the strongest antibiotic that he could for this sort of infection, and there had been no change. He told us that if I was closer to 24 weeks, that he might agree to risk waiting. But at the time, 24 weeks was still over two weeks away. And the babies had had no measurable fluid around them for nearly four weeks, so it was very likely that their lungs had not developed. He said that the risk to me was too high at this point to continue the pregnancy.

Parts of my memory of labor are spotty. I don’t ever remember saying “yes” to the induction. But I never said “no” either. My husband, mom, and I started crying and the doctor left us alone for a few minutes to discuss with the nurses what was to be done. My mom gave me a hug and said goodbye, tears streaming down her face. I thanked her for coming and asked her to please let everyone know so that I didn’t have to. My husband just hugged me while we cried together, not saying anything. There wasn’t anything to say. We were going to lose our twins.

The doctor came back with a nurse a few minutes later. He asked if we had any questions. But we didn’t even know what sort of questions to ask. We were both numb. I didn’t want to know everything all at once either. It was already too much to handle. The doctor checked my cervix and said that I was already about 1 cm dilated. He inserted a vaginal suppository that was supposed to start labor. He said that I could have any pain medicine I wanted if I needed it. I asked him how long this would take, and he said up to 24 hours. He said he would continue to check on my progress with the nurses. With that, he left. The nurse removed the heart beat monitors on my stomach that were for the babies. But she left the monitor on that measured contractions. She said that someone from the blood bank would be in soon to take more blood and put in another IV just in case I needed a blood transfusion. And with that, we were left alone to wait. The tears would not stop coming, but now I made no attempt to quiet them.

Part Two of my birth story is to come.

 

Not feeling very thankful

I didn’t know it was possible to feel your heart continuing to break over and over again when it was already shattered. My pregnancy has been terminated. I killed my babies. I am one of the people who aborted their pregnancies after 20 weeks. Pro-life advocates would have you think I am a monster. But each painful contraction was a reminder of what I was doing to my precious babies. A reminder that my body had failed me. Had failed them.

After a 33-hour-long, emotional, physically challenging, and dangerously complicated delivery, I delivered twin girls a little before 2:30 am, November 25. They both passed shortly after. I was 22 weeks pregnant.

I want so desperately to feel them still move inside me. To hear their heartbeats. To hold them in my arms. To kiss their heads. To hold their tiny hands.

I’m not ready to tell my birth story yet. But hopefully soon I can put the whole ordeal into words to help me move on without forgetting. If it’s possible to even move on from this.

21 weeks 5 days

I wish I had better news to report. But it turns out the bleeding was the first sign of infection. My life is in danger if I don’t deliver the babies soon. They have begun inducing labor, and now we wait. We wait to deliver babies too small with undeveloped lungs. Babies that will not survive. What a beginning to the holiday season.