Another moment

I found out on February 6th that I was pregnant. It was a shock to say the least. I had gone in to the doctor for a sinus infection and mentioned that I had some abnormal activity with my “cycle.” They decided to run a test to rule it out and instead, confirmed it. When the nurse led me to an examine room, she casually handed me a piece a paper saying, “here’s your test results” before turning her back to me. I looked down and read the word out loud. “Positive?” She sheepishly looked back and me and replied, “yeah…and the doctor should be in a bit, so you have about ten minutes if you’d like to make a phone call.” Then she left me there. Alone.

I couldn’t call my boyfriend. That’s not something you call about when it’s unplanned and unexpected. Instead I sat down and cried a bit. It took me two more days before I could tell him. Not because I was afraid of him or his response, although I honestly wasn’t sure how he’d take it. More because I needed it to sink in first. I’m 44 years old. Most women my age find it difficult to get pregnant. I had somehow done it by getting off-track with my birth control and then spending almost a complete month TAKING birth control before I got handed that positive result. How was it even possible??

My boyfriend took the news in the best way possible. After he was sure I wasn’t kidding him, he said we’d figure it out. We’ve spent the last four and a half weeks getting used to the idea. Sharing our secret with only our families. Making plans for how we would make a baby fit into our lives. My body started changing even though I was only about 8 weeks along. I got cravings and mood swings. My jeans became impossible to keep buttoned up comfortably. My boyfriend was sweet with his teasing and considerate with his gestures, making me comfort food and coming up with cute nicknames.

Yesterday we were excited because it was the first ultrasound and we’d know how far along I really was. Just about what we thought. And our baby looked just like a peanut, curved and barely there. Only without a heartbeat. Somehow in just a couple of days, something had gone wrong. I still had symptoms, but we didn’t have a baby.

It’s hard to describe the emotions of that moment, when I knew before the lab tech said anything, that something was wrong. And it’s still hard today because it’s a weird sense of grief. We had just gotten used to the idea, not yet really excited, but getting there. We knew there were risks, but somehow I wasn’t ready for the end. It’s a horrible, swift shift in thinking that goes around like a tornado in the mind. Circling, circling. What and why chasing each other. And now I wait until I officially miscarry which is a lingering pain…

I know my boyfriend was also shocked and disappointed. We both spent some time with tears. But he admitted that it wasn’t the same…the guy is outside of it all a little bit. It’s not completely real like it is for the woman whose body changes with hormones and everything is a worry. Every morsel of food and drink and everything put on the skin gets a question mark: will it hurt the baby? And when something goes wrong, it’s impossible not to wonder if it was something that you did or didn’t do. It’s like when my oldest was born early, I felt like I had somehow failed in my duty as the mother. That somehow I didn’t provide what she needed. And yet I know miscarriage is common, regardless of my age bracket. And I will eventually come to terms with it. We both will.

I think for me the hardest part was thinking that I somehow had gotten that do-over I talked about before. Getting to have a baby with the man I love, in a relationship that wasn’t fraught with tension and difficulty. I had been given this unexpected gift and now I realize I was afraid the whole time that it wasn’t real. It’s weird what goes through your mind when you’re trying to make sense of things. Did I just not have enough faith?

I’m still struggling today. But I am thankful for one thing. I had a glimpse of something really fantastic, and my guy couldn’t have been better through it all. I’ve got a partner who truly cares about me. That part of my do-over is real.

Feb 11

I read an article about the CEO of AOL using families of premature infants as part of the reason the company needed to make cuts in benefits. Apparently, the costs associated with the care of two infants was upwards of two million dollars. Not surprising. The cost of healthcare in this country is astounding. However, his comments brought upon a backlash and caused him to ultimately reverse the company decision to cut benefits. This article brought to mind a couple of things for me. First, I understand the company’s need to look at the cost of healthcare. I was recently on a work committee that was charged with finding ways to reduce our own healthcare costs and find new plans to offer to our employees. We weren’t privy to the claims made of our employees, and I wouldn’t want to single out anyone who had need of medical services, regardless of the associated costs. After all, that’s why we pay for health insurance–in case we need it. The rising costs of healthcare and insurance is staggering and the impact to businesses is real. It’s a political conundrum that probably won’t be solved by our current policies. But I don’t like to get into politics. The other thing that came to mind, however, is more personal. I was on the receiving end of this story. My oldest daughter was born 3 months premature.

It was a shock, of course. Looking back it seemed there was a warning sign–a constant backache for a couple of weeks–but nothing major. I hadn’t yet gotten to the point in my pregnancy where I was huge and had learned about labor and expectations. The morning she was born, I felt some cramping and eventually called my doctor’s office. I was given an appointment for later in the day. I called my mom and told her I wasn’t feeling so well and described some of the pain. She told me to keep track of it and call my doctor back if it seemed to increase. I was going to simply go back to bed but the pain escalated quickly. To the point where I also realized there was a pattern to it. I called my doctor back and was told to come in, but by then I couldn’t stand straight and knew I couldn’t drive across town. I called a friend to take me. By the time she arrived, I could barely walk. When we made it to the clinic, I was in so much pain, they sent a nurse out to the car and called an ambulance. I was taken back across town, wheeled in to the hospital, moved to a bed and delivered my daughter within 10 minutes of arriving. I remember the room was filled with people, none of whom I knew. But I also didn’t care. It was surreal and frightening. They whisked her away so quickly I didn’t even get a chance to see her. She weighed 2 pounds, 3.5 ounces. I have a picture of her before they put her in the incubator, full of tubes and wires, gripping her dad’s pinky. She was no bigger than her dad’s hand.

My daughter was one of the lucky ones. Well, we all were. She spent two and a half months in the infant ICU and was allowed to go home when she reached 5 pounds. I could write volumes about the agony of that time. The fear, the guilt, the discovering, the elation that went with all the milestones of watching a premature infant finish growing inside a plastic dome. There were so many things that could go wrong. There were many other infants and parents going through the same struggle as we during that time. Not all of them went as unscathed as we did. The only lasting effects of my daughter’s birth were on her eyesight (she needed glasses in kindergarten but grew out of them by high school) and a scar she will always have on the inside of her arm where the pic line was inserted. And of course, the life-changing psychological effects it had on me and her father.

I don’t usually think about my daughter’s tough beginning until I run across something like that article to remind me. I am, of course, always thankful for the outcome we had. But the article also reminded me that I’m thankful I didn’t have the worry of a mountain of medical debt on top of everything else. I had good insurance at the time. I wish that were true for everyone.