Thursday, April 23, 2009

heartbeat

Warning: A long post that I need to get off my chest

In the same week that I learned my 90-year-old grandmother survived a heart attack, I also learned that my baby never developed a heart. Fifty-some years ago, my grandmother also suffered a miscarriage, and we had a good cry together last night. Her words of comfort: "It's hard to get into this world, and it's hard to leave it."

Despite this truism, much has changed between her experience and mine. My great-aunt apparently suffered so badly from a miscarriage that it shook her body with fever and infection, nearly costing her own life. In my case, my nurse practitioner quietly noticed warning signs--a drop in my blood's hormone levels (I didn't know about) and no heartbeat at eight weeks (I did know about). She referred me for another ultrasound in 2-3 weeks.

I went in on Tuesday optimistic. It was week 11 and 1/2. I was practically out of the first trimester and my morning sickness had completely dissipated. To her credit, the woman behind the ultrasound machine kept a complete poker face and warned me that she could not tell me anything. I could not even see the screen, and she certainly didn't print me out a picture. I was told that I'd get a picture at the normal OB ultrasound appointment at 18 weeks. At one point she asked me to hold my breath. I assumed she was counting heartbeats, and took that as confirmation that everything was ok. My optimism got the better of me, and as my friends began to suspect something important was going on in my life, I gave out the news.

I got the call Wednesday during the last five minutes of class. Twenty-four hours before I ever saw a warning sign of miscarriage or experienced any pain, I knew that the baby had stopped growing. Weeks ago. It is agony to wait now for the physical loss, but I know that it is a luxury.

I am in grief, but I felt like I needed to keep busy and be distracted. So I went to school yesterday anyway. What good is crying at home? Better than crying at school apparently. I was fine for the first two periods. Mild cramps I can handle. I was prepared to leave at the hint of physical pain; I was holding it together well. Then at my prep period, the school announcements got to their inspirational message of the day. All I heard was "Think about where you were born. Were you born in a big city? Were you born ... ? Were you born ... ? Were you born ... ? It doesn't matter where you were born, what matters is your life ..." By the fifth reference to birth, I was turning off my computer and grabbing my keys.

At home, my husband joined me and we resumed the waiting, the grieving, and the relief of knowing what had happened and what would happen. I checked my school email. Bad idea: "Family Additions: New births!" Damn these fertile teachers. Many replies afterwards of congratulations, beautiful wishes that I had no desire to see. As a joke, another teacher replied (without a subject line) that she, too, had good news: she was NOT pregnant. That one hit me hard.

We went to pick up the kids just as the gray foggy marine layer was burning off in the mid-afternoon. At home, we cooked dinner together. I ate fish and drank coffee, but these were not things I had missed during the pregnancy. Though I was tempted to have a beer or two, my husband wisely advised that we save the beers to drink in a good mood, not to drown the pain. Instead we made an apple pie. There is something simple and delightful in the steady peeling of apple after apple, taking off the bruises and filling up a bowl past brimming with apple slices. J and L took turns patting down the dough and stealing a slice here and there. I don't even like apple pie, but this one tasted delicious.

This morning I woke up when L came into the room for a hug. As she squeezed my arms, I felt the contractions begin. Today, I hope it will be over.

5 Comments:

Blogger James said...

Jessica, I am so sorry to hear about this. I hope you and your family are doing as well as can be right now. I've never gone through anything like this, but a few weeks ago I stumbled upon Through by Rachel Barenblatt. She went through this a her collection of poems is quite moving. It's a free download. Maybe it can help.

9:20 AM  
Blogger James said...

Hit publish too soon. That last bit should read:

She went through this and wrote about it. Her collection of poems is quite moving. It's a free download. Maybe it can help.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

My thoughts are with you and your husband Jess.

My mum lost one before I came along.

Take care.

xxxx

9:38 AM  
Blogger Kari, Randy, and Evan said...

I am so very sorry Jessica. My heart is with you, friend.

5:39 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Thanks. I'll take a look at Rachel Barenblatt. Somehow it is comforting to find how others worked their way out of grief.

6:49 PM  

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