Subchorionic What? My Birthday balloons for Jaxon

birthday balloonsWARNING: This is a detailed account of my first pregnancy loss.

Now that it is so close to the 2 year anniversary of losing our baby Jaxon (at 15 weeks pregnant), there are some things I wanted to write in hopes of being able to let some of the pain go. If I can write about it before we hit the anniversary date, maybe it will come and go a little easier. In previous blog entries I have written about losing Jaxon, but I haven’t written about the details of what actually went wrong. This is the story of the last week or so my first pregnancy.

March is such a beautiful month here by the coast. And there is something really special about the breeze and the air and the sunshine as we go into early spring here. And with that beauty, comes the distinct reminder and those painful memories cutting to the front of the line, screaming at me to let them out.  I lost my first baby on March 23, 2013.

About a week or two before losing Jaxon, it all started with sudden bleeding. Very, very heavy bleeding. It was terrifying and there I was alone in a bathroom stall at work and I could not understand what could possibly be happening. When I was able to get myself together, I called my husband and I called the doctor’s office. After going over all of my symptoms over the phone with the nurse, she thought it might be a subchorionic hematoma.   What the heck is that? What does this mean? Will my baby be ok? She ordered an ultrasound but we were not able to be seen until after 4pm. The waiting was torture. But we were soon relieved when we saw the baby in the ultrasound looking just fine. We saw the source of the bleeding and the nurse was right. It was a subchorionic hematoma. We could see a large dark spot in the ultrasound next to the placenta where the bleeding and clotting was taking place.

I found this link and it gives a better description than I can:

http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/complications/subchorionic-bleeding.aspx

I was told that this is not that uncommon in pregnancy and usually they heal on their own without impacting the pregnancy. I was sent home and instructed to take it easy (I could still work, but no exercise) and that it should heal in 2-3 weeks. This was very good news out of what initially appeared to be completely terrifying.

For a couple of days, it seemed like my body was healing and the bleeding seemed to be slowing down. I was hopeful that I was on the mend. I remember very distinctly on that Wednesday, just a few days before this all came to a crashing end, that I had a doctor appointment with my OB. It was great timing, as I really wanted the check-in and hopefully reassurance that the baby was going to be ok.   By the time I had the appointment I was experiencing a stronger, burning pain throughout my uterus but the doctor did not seem too concerned. She did not do an ultrasound but listened to the heartbeat and the sound, as usual, was lovely to hear. But that night, things took a turn for the worse. I can remember it so clearly because I was in so much pain. I’ve never been so incapacitated by pain before. I could not move, I could not get out of bed. I knew I could not walk. There was pain pulsing through my lower back and lower abdomen. It was terrifying. In hindsight, I should have gone to the hospital with that much pain. But having never been through anything like this, my instinct was to wait through it at home. I just couldn’t let myself think it was getting worse and if I went to a hospital I would have to admit to myself it was getting worse. But I did wait it out and the pain did subside. I thought I was in the clear. By Thursday night, I was experiencing pain again. Not as severe, but it was bad enough that I couldn’t sleep through it.

This lead up to some wonderful birthday plans for my 39th birthday. My husband and I had planned a weekend get-away for just the two of us at a Bed and Breakfast about 2 hours away from home. I felt well enough Friday to get packed and ready to go and we decided to go forward and enjoy our weekend. I figured as long as we were taking it easy and just relaxing, everything would be fine. We enjoyed our drive along the coast and made some fun stops along the way to check out some produce stands, and jam and candy stores and take some photos.

When we got to the darling Bed and Breakfast, we checked into our room and decided to relax there and rest. The kind owners had provided a couple of birthday cupcakes for us. My husband surprised me with a birthday flower and balloon bouquet and some specialty chocolates from the area. We were off to a great start and I had a lot to look forward to on Saturday where we had plans for a massage and dinner at a fancy, ooh la la restaurant.

That Friday night we went out to dinner and it was really enjoyable. But then I noticed I was getting increasingly uncomfortable and the pain in my lower abdomen was building. We had to leave dinner early and head back to our B&B. I was in quite a bit of pain on and off throughout the night and by 6am, the pain was so out of control, I had to wake up my husband to take me to the hospital. I was scared and confused and the pain was so severe I could not stand up straight. I remember, it was so hard to move, to get dressed, to think. We were very lucky that the hospital was just a few minutes away from where we were staying and when we got to the emergency room, it was rather quiet and we were seen right away. However, we were seen by someone who was not an OB or pregnancy specialist and he was at the end of a very long overnight shift. He did not seem to be thinking too clearly at this point either, so that made our experience even more confusing. They gave me an IV of Tylenol. I told them it was not helping; I was still just in too much pain. They finally gave me morphine. The doctor wheeled over an ultrasound machine and we quickly could see the baby. In that instant of seeing my baby moving and still alive, I was so relieved, but in a split second I was horrified and had to look away because he seemed to be frantically moving, like he was being pushed and bounced around almost violently. I will never forget that image. The OB specialist was on-call and we had to wait for her to arrive. In the meantime I was asked all kinds of questions, had blood drawn and urine tested. The urine test came back with a result that seemed to indicate infection but it made no sense to me as I had just been tested a few days prior with no issues. I knew it must have been contaminated due to my bleeding. Instead of letting me provide another sample, they insisted on a catheter. Those were words l did not want to hear. I had never had to have a catheter before but it just sounded awful.   And it was awful. But I was thankful when it was over. For those of you who have been in an emergency room before, you know there tends to be a lot of waiting for the “next thing” or the next doctor, or more test results. It goes on and on and on. And part of that “on and on and on” was me lying there with a catheter wondering, “when the hell is somebody coming back to take this out?” Finally, several hours later the on-call OB arrived. And she was very sweet and helped calm my nerves. She checked my cervix and thankfully it had not dilated. The pain was under control due to the morphine. But what did this all mean? She did not have an exact answer but the diagnosis was “threatened miscarriage.” She encouraged us to go back to our B&B to rest as recovery outside of a hospital setting is so much better and staying there may just cause more stress. We left with a prescription for Vicadin and we were on our way. But I was exhausted and I knew this birthday weekend was over. No massage, no fancy dinner, no celebrating. I would be in bed until we felt like it was safe to drive home. And I did not yet have a feeling for when that would be. But I knew driving all the way back home was not safe at that moment. While my husband was out picking up the Vicadin, I could feel the pain coming back. I was there alone at the B&B in bed and scared again. Earlier that day, we had called our B&B caretakers to let them know I had ended up in the hospital. They were very concerned and supportive. She brought me a heating pad to help with my back pain. My husband finally came back with some dinner and the pain medication. We tried to sit in the kitchen to eat, but by now I was in a lot of pain again and could only sit there for a few minutes and had to return to bed.

When I think back on this week and all the pain I was in, I know that at the end I was experiencing contractions. But it had been too early in the pregnancy to have gone through any Lamaze classes, or to have gained any understanding on what to expect during childbirth. I was lying in that bed realizing that the cycling pain must be contractions but I tried so hard not to believe it. I was there in that bed for so long hoping and wishing that it would pass and everything would be fine. But late that night the pain suddenly worsened and I had to go back to the hospital. My husband had fallen asleep so I had to wake him up which in itself felt impossible while in that state of pain. Once he was awake, I had to somehow get up again, but it was so hard to do. And I recall that in my husband’s state of panic, he kept saying things that seemed so irrational and unimportant to me. Saying things like making sure to grab my jewelry or to put shoes on. It even seemed unreasonable that I should have to get dressed. Nothing was important to me at that moment, other than to just get to the hospital. The pain washed over me so violently and I had no control. I vomited from the pain. Somehow my husband was able to get me out to the car. Those few minutes in the car were excruciating. My body did not want to be in a seated position. While in the car as we approached the hospital, I could actually feel my cervix opening. I knew I was going to lose the baby, but I could not bring myself to speak the words.

This time the emergency room was packed with people. While trying to get admitted, I was in so much pain, I could not speak. I was crying and moaning and had to point at the picture chart of how much I pain was in. Definitely way beyond #10 on the chart. They put me in a wheel chair but they did not take us back right away. I remember thinking how badly I needed to tell someone I couldn’t sit there. It was too painful, but I couldn’t speak. We had to sit there in the waiting room while I was crying and at this point screaming in pain. Everyone was staring at us. It was humiliating. My husband called my mom to let her know we were back in the hospital and all I could think of was, “get off the phone, I don’t want her to hear me in pain like this.” The contractions were so strong and I felt them switch from a cycle to a constant stream of excruciating torture. Finally, they took us to a private room and got me into a bed and undressed. They gave me morphine. We were there about 15 minutes. We were alone in the room. And I lost the baby. I don’t think my husband could have comprehended that losing the baby would actually happen. He was shocked and horrified when we did. While I felt everything, he saw everything. All I saw were the lights in the ceiling. He saw all the blood and he saw the baby. He ran to get help. But now it was over. He was so scared and thought I was bleeding too much. He kept checking my pulse. I couldn’t feel anything anymore, other than continued contractions that would not stop but were a bit muted by the morphine. Again, now waiting for the on-call OB to arrive. It was the same doctor from the morning. She was so sorry to see us there again. She was able to take the baby and clean him up. She gave him to us and I held him as long as I could. But again, with him lying there on my chest I couldn’t feel anything. There were no emotions. I couldn’t feel.   We were left there with time alone and we named him Jaxon Alan.  At some point later, a nurse came in to take Jaxon away. It was at that moment of him leaving my arms that I felt everything again. Every emotion. Deep grief, heartbreak, gut-wrenching loss. My baby was gone. My mind cannot accept this is happening and I screamed for him and reached my hands out for him.

I had to have surgery. My body would not pass the placenta, so I had to have a D&C. I remember feeling relieved right before falling asleep that the contractions and physical pain were finally put to an end.   The surgery was probably around 10 or 11pm that night. Following the surgery, I would sleep on and off but it was scary to wake up because I had to realize over and over again what had just happened.

That morning when it was light again, I was so struck and saddened by the feeling of my shrunken belly. So much emptiness.   I still couldn’t quite comprehend or believe what had just happened. But then there were questions…What should we do with Jaxon? What do you want to do with the remains? Do you want to have him cremated? My husband had gathered all the information that morning while I was resting but we had to act quickly. How are you supposed to make these decisions when you are still in such a state of shock and confusion? We wanted our baby and we wanted to be able to have him cremated. But before leaving, my husband had to contact one of our local funeral homes to find out if they could actually drive to this hospital and pick him up.   Thankfully they were able to do this for us.

The caretakers at the B&B packed up all of our things for us. My husband went back and picked up everything while I was still at the hospital. When he came back to to get me, he let go of the birthday balloons and watched them float away as a gift to Jaxon.

It was like my 39th birthday did not exist. We left the hospital on Sunday and that Monday was my birthday. But I couldn’t celebrate. I couldn’t even acknowledge birthday wishes from friends, as we hadn’t even been able to share the terrible news yet. I never did celebrate my birthday that year.   But I will always in my heart, celebrate the short life that became Jaxon Alan.

Two Girls

heartTwo girls. Today we received the genetic test results and found out that the twins were normal (no genetic defects found) and were female. I thought the hardest part was over, but somehow hearing those words and realizing I had lost what could have been two baby girls made my heart break even more. I loved the names that we had picked out for girls and that stings a lot too. Finding out that they were “normal” made me even more confused as to why they had been taken. I guess it’s just random bad luck, totally out of our control. It’s so hard to live with that. It still feels impossible to let go, even though they are already gone…but the love that remains is worth holding on to.

Photo by CJE

Faith, Hope and Dreams

blogentry 10photoYesterday was a really hard day for me. I was exhausted and in tears most of the evening. My husband and I had a long talk about hope and faith and not giving up.  His words have stayed with me today and this is what I heard him say…

While you feel you have lost hope,

It is not gone.

I am holding it for you.

While you search for faith,

I will keep mine close.

I will wait for you.

While you see darkness

I can see a baby in your arms.

I will save this dream until yours is no longer broken.

Photo by CJE – Peru

Faking it: I Need a Rock to Crawl Under

blog entry 9 photoI tried to avoid everyone today. I wanted to hide in a hole or crawl under a rock. It was my first day back at work after such a sad week and the Thanksgiving holiday. I knew it would make my stomach turn every time someone casually asked me how my holiday was. I had so much anxiety over trying to figure out how to answer that question. So, I figured it was easier to avoid people as much as possible in hopes I wouldn’t have to fake my way through a generic and emotionally stable response. My strategy was pretty solid and I got through the day without breaking down or having to talk to many people. I only sent one pathetic text to my husband telling him how depressed I was and that I wanted to go home. I think I only had to answer, “how was your holiday” twice today. Totally faked it with a semi-smile on my face. Unfortunately, one of these people stopped by to tell me her dog died. I decided it was best to keep my sadness to myself and offer whatever empathy I could muster because she deserved to have that too. It is a mixed blessing to have had several previous difficult life experiences allowing me to perfect my “return to work survival strategy”. The first day is always the hardest and most risky for unpredictable emotional collapse. And you don’t want to risk this in front of just anyone. I know where to park so I can get directly between my office and car with minimal risk of running into someone. I know what bathroom to hide in if I can’t fight off tears. I’m skilled at the use of email to alert people I’m back and working on stuff, delaying actual direct face-to-face contact. I have Kleenex in my office. I know what type of work I can do that helps distract me from my emotions but has a little wiggle room for error in case my brain tricks me into thinking it is actually working properly. I’ve returned to work after much worse…losing my Dad to cancer, a death of a loved one two months later, and then losing my Grandma within the same year. I’ve worked through divorce and walking away from my home and completely starting over. I fumbled and cried my way through work after a traumatic miscarriage at 15 weeks. Through all these experiences, I’ve continued to learn how to return to work while still grieving. I know how much space I need and will try to protect that space as much as possible. I know whom I can trust and who will support me. I know who to share details with and who to keep at a distance. Then starting with the second day back at work, I continue to endure and wait for enough time to pass to feel normal again. And I wait long enough through the stability of the daily grind so that when someone asks me how I’m doing I don’t have to fake it.

Photo by CJE – Peru

Sympathy

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Sometimes we try to trick our mind and our heart into feeling better by thinking these words…”it could be so much worse.” Sometimes other people may think they are helping us feel better by saying those same words. Somehow trying to put our pain and our sorrow into perspective.  I find myself jumping between my own memories of loss in my life and thinking about the life-altering challenges other people I care about have had to face. And yes, it can be worse. But then I stop and remind myself that the loss of my pregnancies and the sorrow I am experiencing right now is my tragedy and it is my sadness all on it’s own without having to make a comparison to anything else. I know from experience that making these comparisons will sting deep in my soul. It gets in the way of healing and can make us question our own process of getting through it. It can question the validity of feelings that are supposed to be raw and clutching and that must be experienced as they happen without the pressure or distraction of diminishing them. If we can feel it all and not hide from it, or lessen it, we will be able to replace the invasive thorns of grief with a soft, peaceful, protective aura; bringing the calm of acceptance and the ability to live with hope and happiness again. But we don’t have to get there on our own. Sympathy and comfort from our loved ones is a blessing. Pure compassionate sympathy showing simply, that I am here with you in your grief and that I am here with you as your heart breaks and I am here with you until you see light again is the most healing gift. Expressing no time limit on someone’s pain, no comparison to another’s suffering and no limit on the love that is shared in these difficult moments helps to pave the path to recovery. I am very fortunate to have people in my life who can give this to me and I was reminded of that fortune by the card pictured here that I received a couple of days ago. Thank you for your love. You are giving me the gift of healing.

Photo by CJE

Thankful: Making Jaxon

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It’s a different Thanksgiving today. No plans, no travel, no getting together with family. I think I may watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade and bake something made out of pumpkin and enjoy the sounds and smells of my husband cooking turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. It will just be a day for us. With the events of this week, I didn’t have it in me to put on a brave face and a smile to visit with anyone. It feels better to stay home without any pressure or schedule, plus the dog is happily snoozing next to me. While I sit here watching the pre-show of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I’m reminded of Thanksgiving from two years ago. It was just the beginning of making Jaxon. The 2012 holiday season was our first round of IVF. We launched into the process as soon as we had returned from our honeymoon and not long after celebrating the new year of 2013, we found out it worked on our first try. I was pregnant! Could we really be this lucky? Our first try and it worked? It was incredibly exciting but then so quickly coupled with a random health event that clouded the enjoyment through the first six weeks of the pregnancy. Two days after the embryo transfer I had unusual breast changes that first appeared to be an infection. I went to an urgent care clinic and was treated with antibiotics. Nothing changed. For the next six weeks I went back and forth between my OB/GYN, a breast surgeon and an infectious disease specialist. Since I could not have a mammogram, it was harder to determine a diagnosis or quickly rule out various concerns. We kept trying different antibiotics for a while, with my doctors still leaning toward treating an infection. No change. Then there were scarier possibilities that would not only risk my pregnancy, but my life. The next step was a biopsy where we hoped to eliminate the worst of the possibilities. But now the worst of the possibilities was all I could think about. After six weeks terrified of what this could be, we finally had an answer. It was simply benign, and random, and unexplainable. All those weeks of doctor appointments, and worry, and stress, and the distraction from bonding with my pregnancy was finally over. And I was fine. The relief I felt when my doctor called me on a Friday night to tell me I was ok was a wonderful moment and such a huge relief. I could feel my whole body rejecting the claws of tension that had held on so tightly for those long weeks. And I was so thankful. I could finally just enjoy this pregnancy and focus on this new little life. Now, it was just normal pregnancy doctor appointments and ultrasounds. My favorite, at approximately 11 weeks where we got to see so much detail of our growing baby and his cute little movements. At about 13 weeks we announced our pregnancy to everyone. EVERYONE. We enclosed the photo attached to this post in our wedding thank you cards. A photo to quickly spread happiness to everyone nearest and dearest to us. However, the joy of sharing the news and the relief of transitioning to my second trimester of pregnancy was so cruelly short-lived. I started having problems right after 13 weeks and by 15 weeks he was gone. At the end of it all, with only a few ounces of perfection resting on my chest, I have never felt anything heavier sinking so deeply into my heart. The most precious, beautiful face I had ever seen. A cute little button nose and the littlest fingers and toes. And while my mind was still in shock in that horrific moment, I knew I had been given the biggest love I had ever known. Today I am thankful that I can still see his face and still feel that love from our baby named Jaxon. I know that for all that was so painfully stripped away from us that day, the love still remains. And when my husband speaks his name in heartfelt memory, I am thankful.

Photo by CJE

Dog by my side

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When I’m this sad, it actually hurts to smile.  It’s like I feel guilty to even break through the grief because it feels like what I lost deserves so much from me.  And in this case, two new lives that have stopped so abruptly.  I don’t know if it’s that nobody can force a smile out of me when I feel like this, or if my mind is too stubborn to let it happen because it just doesn’t feel right.  But somehow my dog can break through the sadness and make me forget about it all for a minute and just be there in the moment with her innocent goofiness and sweetness.  I can’t help but smile and giggle a bit.  Somehow I think she can feel that I’m sad.  She follows me around and snuggles with me and makes silly noises to get me to play with her.  We rescued her and she returns the favor every day.  Rescue a dog and a dog will most certainly rescue you right back.

Photo by CJE

Chance #2/31: Twins

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I begin my first words in the midst of another loss. One week ago I was eight weeks pregnant and got the biggest surprise of my life. Two heartbeats. Twins. At the age of 40 and already having suffered a 15-week miscarriage just two days before my 39th birthday, the sight of those little flashes of light was my miracle. Two days ago the two heartbeats stopped and so did my world. From the giddiness of a week ago tempered by some apprehension that goes along with the first trimester; to the head-on collision between my happiness hitting the brick wall of my biggest fear: Stillness of the life that just began. I just sit here stuck in grief. Again. We had a week of fun and silliness, with my husband holding up two fingers and laughing every time he looked at me. Giggling every time he said, “twins.” Finally feeling so blessed after such a long and difficult journey. Trying to stay so hopeful that life could not be cruel enough to take this away from us. And now, here we are again. Painful loss accompanied by the ridiculous unfairness of continued morning sickness and pregnancy symptoms. For a moment waking up in the night thinking I’m still pregnant until reality rushes back into my breaking heart. I know we are not alone, and I know we are not the only ones. There are a lot of crying hearts and grieving parents out there. This blog is about our journey through the challenges of infertility, the heartbeats along the way and holding each other up through the process. We are not ready to give up.

Photo by CJE