• Hard Stuff

    Day 32: Reopened

    DTo many people’s dismay, we didn’t find out the sex of our first child. In a world where everything is instant and surprises are limited and few, we wanted to wait. We wanted that unmatched moment when the doctor not only handed us our baby but announced its sex.

    It’s a…..!!!

    The entire pregnancy, I suspected Caroline was a boy. I couldn’t imagine being a #boymom or having to eventually talk about wet dreams, how socks should be changed daily or why deodorant is necessary after physical activity. Shocking, but as a girl, I’m more comfortable with girl stuff. I’ll talk to anyone about periods (it will ruin your life), teen pregnancy (all boys are bad and will ruin your life) and birth control (get on it, stay on it, don’t ruin your life).

    That awkward girl stuff comes way easier to me than awkward boy stuff which is exactly why I thought we’d be having a boy. Murphy’s Law and shit.

    When the doctor announced that Caroline was a girl, I was in actual disbelief. Had I not been paralyzed from the waist down, strapped on an operating table with my insides on the outside, I would have fainted. I was that damn certain she was a he.

    [[[Fast forward two years later and I got my boy in Oliver. He is a walking learning-curve for me. I find myself cleaning the floor around the toilet a lot and reminding him to stop mentioning his wiener, feces, and boogers. He’s a special kind of special and every day I feel foolish that I was so scared to have a boy.]]]

    This is a longwinded way to say that I never thought I’d have a girl simply because I wanted one so badly.

    I got very lucky with one.

    Today I found out that I had a second.

    Prior to the procedure, I consented to have the baby tested. I was desperate to know why. Desperate to know if I caused it. Desperate to know if that little being ever stood a chance.

    Turner syndrome (Monosomy X) and pregnancy loss are often related. Turner syndrome is a chromosome disorder in which a girl or woman has only one complete X chromosome. (Because a Y chromosome is needed for a person to be male, all babies with Turner syndrome are girls.) Though girls born with Turner syndrome usually have good odds for a normal life, the majority of babies with the condition are lost to miscarriage or stillbirth.

    A test that was likely to show nothing revealed so much, but nothing more heartwrenching and piercing as hearing, “it was a girl.”

    A girl.

    I flashed back to hearing that for the first time in the operating room, under such happy circumstances. Now I’m in my living room, anxious, sad and without a baby to hold.

    Not only have I envisioned the life lost countless times, but now I know the specific life lost. A little girl who would have maybe looked like my brown-haired, green-eyed Caroline. A little girl who perhaps would have liked LEGOS and dress-up like her big sister. A little girl who would have held her father in the palm of her hand and been the all-consuming light of her mother’s world.

    Now I know.

    Now I know what we lost.

    Hearing that news ever-so-slightly unglued the healing wound of this entire ordeal. Every day I’ve felt a little stronger, more steadfastly focused on the future and proudly breaking down less.

    But…

    Now it’s all reopened again albeit with a different reaction: no screaming, crying or listening to sad playlists in the shower. Instead, I feel stiff, robotic and numb as though I’ve used up so many emotions and shed so many tears the past few weeks that my body is rejecting sad news.

    Information and knowledge are wonderful and I’m happy that I get to fill in the gaps of doubt and mystery, but at the same time, this new information stings a spot that is already so sore and vulnerable.

    Now I know.

    Our girl <3

    She would have been wonderful, for that I am certain.

    Maybe that’s why it hurts so much.

  • Hard Stuff

    Birthday

    I love my birthday. I know you’re supposed to grow out of that feeling by the time you can wipe your own ass or drink legally, but it just never happened for me. Usually people are tapped out from gift giving at Christmas and straight-up broke to give two proper shits about my birthday a month later. Plus, it’s usually freezing which also greatly lowers people’s enthusiasm for my special day.

    But, every year I put on an awkward birthday celebration when I force my loved ones to drink with me and put candles on a damn cookie cake as if they care as much as I do. It’s precious, really. Sometimes I wear a pink tutu. Sometimes I wear a homemade “Birthday Girl” shirt. But there’s always pink champagne. Usually too much that I end up revisiting in the toilet later on…but it’s tradition.

    This year was obviously different. I was never going to have a “good” 34th birthday. It wasn’t in the cards this year. For maybe the first time in my life, I wished for a birthday boycott.

    No celebration.

    No cake.

    No candles.

    No presents.

    I woke up immediately wanting the day to be over. There’s something very dreadful about being wished a “happy” anything when you’re internally inconsolable. Some people didn’t know about the loss, others played ignorant, others openly said “Your birthday is going to suck, but we love you.”

    I love those people.

    They were right.

    I held it together all day. I accepted the kind-hearted birthday wishes, but by the early evening when my children were giddy with excitement over “mama’s day,” I just kind of…shut down.

    This birthday was going to be different. I was supposed to be in the early stages of my second trimester. I was supposed to be begrudgingly sober. I was supposed to be propped up on the couch with a growing belly, healthy baby and full heart.

    34 will be remembered as me being slightly befuddled by 4:30pm (Chardonnay– that dirty rascal), a stomach full of bloat and in a full blown mental-health crisis by 8:30pm. My heart couldn’t process what my head was telling me:

    The baby isn’t here.

    It was at that moment when I realized that my sadness was bigger than I wanted to recognize. That, right there is a sobering thought.

    I’m not that tough.

    So on my 34th birthday, late at night, I contacted a grief counselor. A gift to myself? Yes. A gift to others who will undoubtedly grow tired of my meltdowns? Yes.

    I much prefer my previous birthdays (even my 18th birthday when I decided it was “time” to wear a thong for the first time and walked around like I was…well, wearing a thong for the first time), but I’m realizing that I’m pretty lucky to have waited 34 years for a truly bad birthday.

    And was it all that bad?

    No. It was just different. An unexpected, unanticipated different.

    I’m still struggling. That isn’t news. Life is moving forward. I’m moving forward and that pains me, in a weird way. My birthday forced me to realize that there is an internal, mental conflict between “Public Allee” who smiles, accepts good wishes and celebrates her birthday and “Private Allee” who feels suffocated, stifled and slow to return to “normal.”

    But I’m getting there.

    Happy Birthday to me and Happy Birthday to my high-deductible medical insurance that is about to be HIT UP with counseling co-pays.

  • Hard Stuff

    Day 9: Remember

    You were loved. It doesn’t matter if you were in me for 10 seconds or 9 full months. You were my baby. You were loved.

    I must’ve taken two dozen pregnancy tests. The Dollar Store sells them so I didn’t feel all that guilty for peeing on something that only costs one dollar. Sometimes I’d test in the morning, rush home from work and test again. In my head, you had the ability to “spike” my hormones in a matter of hours and make your presence known through a test.

    In the downstairs bathroom, before work, I tested. In between putting on my mascara and straightening my hair, I thought “take a test. Why not?”

    Ever-so-faintly there was a line. Soft pink. Barely visible.

    But I was desperate for you. I knew it was there.

    It was a few days before Thanksgiving. School was energized with anticipation of the upcoming holiday break. I had a different energy though.

    I had you.

    The next day, I tested again and the line was darker. So, I took more tests.

    Pregnant.

    Pregnant.

    Pregnant.

    How was I going to tell your dad? On my day off I decided to prematurely decorate for Christmas. The day prior, I had bought a snowman ornament with two snowmen, one with an expectant belly with the words “baby” over its body.

    The kids and I decorated while dad was at work. We replaced everything with red and green and I dragged up my artificial tree from the basement. Many years ago, I bought it on clearance and for good reason: it sheds and looks barren. It’s an actual piece of shit and your dad hates it, but it’s all I had to work with on this particular day.

    He came home with pizza and a positive mood about being off for a few days. Surprised that we had decorated the house, I pointed him to the solitary, sullen tree in the corner of the dining room.

    It only has one ornament on it.

    Go look at it.

    He ran over to me. He picked me up off the ground, spun me around like some type of Nicholas Sparks book-to-movie adaptation. He kept asking “really?! Seriously?!” as the kids asked “why are you guys so happy?”

    Soak it in, I remember thinking.

    He was so excited. The best husband and father I could have ever imagined wanted another baby. Our third. Lord knows he knew what he was signing up for: dirty diapers, sleepless nights, a hormonal wife, expensive formula and a life restricted by a needy infant.

    But he was still so excited.

    My love.

    He was giddy to have another baby. It was never a question of if we’d expand our family, it was only a matter of when. We are in love with being parents and we were immediately in love with you.

    You were our little secret. We couldn’t wait to share you with the world.

    And we did.

    Your little soul was so loved. People cried at the news of your existence. Most had known dad and I had been trying. They were just waiting for the confirmation and there you were…

    Existing.

    Growing.

    You made me tired. So tired. Your poor brother and sister had to endure forced episodes of Disney Junior shows so I could nap. “Why are you always so tired, Mom?” they’d ask. Too tired to build LEGOs, too tired to play Barbie’s, too tired to pretend that I wasn’t dealing with first-trimester lethargy. But I would have done anything for you. Napped, puked, cried, whatever you needed.

    I love you.

    You do anything for the ones you love.

    One of my favorite aspects of being pregnant is that feeling of never being alone. As a mom of two, I guess I’m never alone as it is. It’s something I regularly complain about actually. I can’t pee without an audience. If it’s not the kids budging their way in, it’s the cats or dog. I’m always surrounded. But pregnancy is different. There’s something inherently beautiful about being attached to your growing baby. I had to make better decisions for you. You were always with me and that was reassuring and exhilarating.

    Now it’s just all just different.

    Empty.

    There’s a dark space where you used to be. I remember the inconspicuous smiles triggered by your  occupancy. Just walking down the hallway, I’d remember that I was pregnant and a sense of happiness would wash over me. I loved remembering that you were there…

    But I also forgot you were there sometimes.

    You were a quiet, pleasant, tranquil little house guest. You made it easy to forget that you were in existence. The first-trimester is notorious for making mothers ill, resentful and a walking, struggling being of intolerable symptoms. But you made it easy. Too easy.

    I had to remember not to forget you.

    You were there.

    Quietly.

    But you were there.

    In hindsight, I believe that you were so favorable and passive because you knew you wouldn’t be around forever. What an added level of cruelty to make me sick and to disappear so prematurely.

    It’s funny to look back and think of how there were moments I’d forget that I was pregnant. Brief moments of “pregnancy brain” when I had to remind myself that it wasn’t just me anymore. Now, I find myself remembering that it is just me now.

    People are moving on. The concerned texts, inquizitive voicemails and periodic “check-ins” are dwindling. People are going to forget this. For some, they already have. Some never cared to begin with.

    But I won’t forget.

    You were loved. It doesn’t matter if you were in me for 10 seconds or 9 full months. You were my baby. You were loved.

    I will remember. Forever.

    Day 9: Remember.

  • Hard Stuff

    Day 8: Regret

    When I told people about the miscarriage, many of them inevitably responded with something along the lines of “it’s nothing you did. It’s not your fault.” Even the nurse who helped break the news reminded me, “don’t blame yourself.”

    Well damn, I wasn’t. But now that you mention it. Maybe I will.

    I know this wasn’t my fault. I have some remnants of stable mental awareness to know that and the majority of my mind believes it. But what if.

    What if I did things that caused this? What if I didn’t do other things that caused this? There’s no way to ever not blame myself in some regard. Everyone will say that it wasn’t me, but I have mom-guilt for missing my daughter’s snack day at preschool or forgetting my son’s library book. My mind is a list of dramatic “what if’s” and “what about’s”…

    …I never stopped running.

    I ran throughout previous pregnancies so I know this isn’t a cause. Doctors encouraged me to keep up my fitness regime. They explained that pregnancy was a time to “stay in shape” not to “get in shape.” I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. No crazy long runs or over exerting speeds. Should I have stopped? Fattened up on the couch with a bag Tostitos and a carton of ice cream?

    …I worked out.

    Like running, I didn’t abandon my basement workout space or my Monday evening bootcamp classes. I was responsible: I made modifications to certain moves to ensure they were safe, I monitored my heart rate and I followed all first-trimester guidelines. My cousin is currently past her due date and is still squatting weights heavier than me. I don’t think my sporadic 10 minute “arm and back” workout would have caused this. But…I don’t know.

    …I continued taking a “pregnancy safe” medication.

    I didn’t take any medicine with either pregnancies, but my doctors assured me that this was okay and safe to take throughout pregnancy. I trusted them. Should I have done differently? What if it caused something bad that no one, not even someone with a medical degree, could anticipate? Am I selfish for not discontinuing the medicine? What if it harmed my baby? We will never know, but I’ll always ask the question.

    …I missed a few days of prenatal vitamins.

    I just forgot some nights. Ate dinner without taking them. Fell asleep without taking them. Maybe I should have been more responsible.

    …I skipped breakfast some days. Sometimes lunch too.

    Life got in the way. Taxiing the kids to school and activities. Working. Traveling between two schools. I just forgot to eat some mornings. I learned to pack car snacks and remind myself to eat, but what if it was too little and too late?

    …I drank coffee.

    Coffee is one of the pillars of my life, but I loathed it during my first trimester with both babies. Not this one. I carefully calculated caffeine milligrams and rationed my intake. Could a little cup of coffee done big damage? Rationally, I know that’s not true. But irrationally…what if?

    …I never felt sick.

    Tired? Yes. Sore boobs? Yes. Nauseous? No. I pressed the issue with everyone from friends to physicians and they kept saying, “A lot of women wish they had no sickness. Maybe you’re just lucky.”

    Lucky.” Not so much.

    Maybe I should have pressed harder for an explanation. Made more phone calls. Done more research. A defining pregnancy symptom wasn’t there.

    I wasn’t lucky, afterall.

  • Hard Stuff

    Day 7: Resume

    One week ago, I met with one my building principals to discuss an unexpected, upcoming opportunity. Towards the end of the conversation, he hinted that he knew my secret. A little birdie had told him and he understood that the news wasn’t out to the masses yet, but he extended his best wishes. We talked about my due date (finally! Not a September baby!), potential maternity leave (I’d take a little more than the customary six weeks, for sure), how I was feeling (so good! Not sick!) and his excitement about the addition (thank you! We are so excited too!). I left the office relieved that he knew. One less awkward meeting to have.

    One week later and I am walking into work and another principal calls me over in the street. He hugs me and whispers “I’m so sorry. Good to have you back.”

    Seven days. One week. I had a baby, lost a baby and am forced to hit the “play” button on life.

    Smile at co-workers in the hallways.

    Open the classroom door.

    Read sub notes.

    All was fine in my absence.

    Should have stayed out longer then.

    Greet students when they come in.

    “Where have you been?” the kids continuously ask.

    To answer that is like solving some last minute riddle with a gun to my head.

    I got kidnapped by Chris Hemsworth. We ran off together. Into the sunset. But then I felt bad that no one was teaching you guys about the Revolutionary War so I came back.

    They laugh. Most of them don’t know who Chris Hemsworth is. Some of them actually believe this to be true. A few of them just really don’t care to know where their teacher was.

    My mind is a total fog. I think I compared the French and Indian War to Donald Trump wanting to build “the wall.” I’m not even sure, looking back, how I made that connection. The kids looked rightfully confused. Their teacher is a mess.

    I’ll recover.

    I go up to the high school and am met with similar questions from my older students. They’re far more inquisitive and intuitive than middle schoolers.

    Maybe they know.

    I pretend that all is well. Afterall, their midterm is next week. They need to review. But at this moment, my cramps kick into overdrive. I didn’t bring my medication as I convinced myself that I was fine without it.

    My friend and co-worker casually offers to co-teach my class. I enthusiastically accept because between being in physical pain and a mental haze, I’m not sure what I’m doing. I just want to go home with my heating pad and Motrin and cry myself into a peaceful nap.

    Resuming life is hard.

    It’s a lot of pretend. A lot of acting. A lot of forced smiles.

    But this is day 7: Resume.

    Even if I’m not ready.

  • Hard Stuff

    Day 5-6-Forever: Recovery

    I stood in the shower waiting for the water to run clean.

    Eventually, I ran out of hot water waiting.
    The kids were on their way home from an eventful and distracting evening out with my mom and sister and their cousins. To me, this was the most important task to bestow upon anyone. An innocent six and four year old had spent four days trapped in the house with one parent not-so-secretly suffering and one parent busily distracting them with various indoor activities. I didn’t want them to see the aftermath of the procedure. I wanted  them to be giddy with excitement to tell me about the arcade games they played, the prizes they won and the pizza they ate. My mom and sister shielded them from the harsh reality of life. Lord knows I couldn’t. I know my mom would have been with me in the room, but the kids needed the safety of their Nana more than I needed the comfort of my mom. I guess that’s true, unselfish adulthood right there.

    I didn’t sleep again. Everytime I closed my eyes, I flashbacked to the procedure. The darkness which is meant to provide relief, only reminded me of the day’s events.

    Are you up and able to sign some forms to test the tissue?

    Initial on all of the lines.

    Sign the bottom.

    Most of the time, it doesn’t provide a reason why this happened.

    Yes, sometimes we can determine gender.

    My baby was now reduced to a sample to be tested in a lab.

    ———————–

    At 4am, I heard Ryan stirring in bed.

    Ryan, I miss our baby.

    I know. Me too.

    ——————————

    I spent most of Tuesday in bed. It was a combination of physical pain and mental exhaustion. I responded to some texts, ignored most calls and just wanted to punish myself by replaying it all over in my head.

    Do you need us to go over the procedure today?

    We can postpone if you’d like- if you’re not ready.

    As if anyone is ever ready for something like that.

    ——————————-

    Recovery from a D&C is nothing that women aren’t already used to. It’s not something that requires many aftercare instructions or prescriptions for painkillers. The doctors move on to their next patients as if they just removed a splinter from your finger. You just kind of have to go home and live it out. You have to accept the reality.

    There’s no numbing pill for that.

    This is Day 5, 6-Forever: Recovery.