Thursday, August 1, 2013

Losing Benjamin

Trigger Warning: I have another story of loss to share.

My last post announced we were expecting again. I am now a little over a week past the day I miscarried again, a precious little boy. We named him Benjamin, and this is his story.

We were surprised to find we had conceived so soon after losing Enoch. It was only six weeks later, and I was still reeling a bit. But we were glad and hopeful. At 5 weeks pregnant, in April, I had a weird pain going on. I went to the doctor, and they didn't really find a reason. My pain, of course, took a break when I went in, so they weren't super concerned about it. Later that day, though, I was feeling worse with every moment. My sister had spent the night, thankfully, so when my husband could come home, he took me to the ER. I was vomiting from pain, it was so intense. They gave me pain relief and did some minor testing, and all they found was a small subchorionic hemorrhage near the implantation site, but there was a baby there. But there was no explanation for the pain, so I left the hospital with only something new to worry about, my first experience in the ER and with powerful drugs, and a big bill. The only thing I found out from my doctor visit that day was I had group B strep and they wanted me to get it in hand before I got to term.

I continued through the first trimester, being careful not to overdo it because of the SCH. It was frustrating, but was working. My little signs I had of the SCH had cleared by the end and I was beginning to be up for normal activity. At my 12.5 week appointment, in June, we heard the heartbeat. I was feeling motion. I started to feel like maybe this child was safe. How likely was it that lightning would strike twice? I even signed the Father's Day card with "Unnamed" at the bottom, which I did not remember until I looked closer at my fridge the other day. That stung.

I thought I was feeling less motions as my next midwife visit approached, but I was not sure. We talked and had a good visit, but I was nervous. This was the visit we didn't hear the heartbeat at with Enoch. It was my second son's second birthday, and I really didn't want bad news that day. I was 16 weeks, 4 days. We tried to find the heartbeat. No heartbeat. I was beginning to fear. Got up and moved around a bit, in case baby was hiding behind the placenta, which my second child with the anterior placenta tried to do. No heartbeat. I was beginning to get upset, this is exactly what happened before. Went to the bathroom and tried one last time. No heartbeat. Tears and sobs came. We scheduled an ultrasound for a couple of hours later just to know and be sure of whatever we could know. I was still trying to hold a small piece of hope in my heart that the baby was hiding, though I knew how unlikely it was. I was afraid to lose again, afraid it was more than I could bear.

My midwife joined me at the ultrasound. Our boys were playing nicely in the waiting room, so my husband opted to wait out there with them until we sent for him to come in once we knew. A brief moment after getting set up, and the man said "no heart activity." My heart sunk, but the tears held off because I knew how important the moment was. I asked him how old the baby looked based on size, if he could see any anomalies, and the gender. He told us that the baby looked about the right size for age, and even still had fluid in their bladder. It must have happened within the week prior. He saw no anomalies except one possible bump on the back of the neck, which he thought was possibly just the cord laying there looking odd from that angle. He said he could not tell gender for sure but thought it might have been a girl. One thing we did not see was that the hemorrhage played any role in this. In fact, there did not seem to be one where the placenta was at all. So, from what we could see, this baby was normal, and nothing we saw on the ultrasound was definite explanation. My midwife asked as he was cleaning up if I could have a photo, if I wanted. He said sure, and I said I did, because I had nothing like that from Enoch. It was then I broke down, overcome by the weight of two losses like this. The ultrasound photo looked so peaceful. But so sad. Babies are not supposed to be perfectly still during an ultrasound. He was in that same position the whole time. He was at rest, but, Oh, why did he die? How did he die? Did he feel pain? Did it take long? Was it totally preventable and we just didn't know? Those questions haunted me as we waited for delivery. They still haunt me now.

We decided to wait to deliver. We found out on the first of the month that baby was gone. We waited through the 4th. We waited through Enoch's due date on the 8th. We waited through my birthday on the 10th. We kept waiting, and I began trying herbal stuff under the direction of my midwife to start it. It did not work, my body wasn't ready. I thought knowing would bring things on faster, but it did not. A little over two weeks later, my body showed signs of preparation. Over the next few days, I had a little bit of contractions, my plug came out, and more contractions the day before he came. Three weeks and a day later, on the 23rd, I got up. I went to the bathroom, and my water broke. I knew he would be coming soon, and I texted my husband and midwife. I also texted the friend who was planning to come over that day, and instead of visiting me, she took my boys to have a playdate with hers. After my midwife and husband were there, and right after my friend left with my boys, he came. I was not in much pain, having taken ibuprofen, so I looked him over. It was a boy, after all. He was noticeably bigger than Enoch was. He was probably 5"+ from head to bottom, and his limbs were longer. Dainty and long fingers, pointy elbows, larger head, little ribs, man bits, I looked at him in a quiet awe, grief being manifested in quietude, not tears. I could barely contain him on my hand. Looking at him and knowing what I did from the ultrasound and from seeing his brother, I think all I saw wrong was the effects a three week wait has. I think both boys were likely normal, or at least not obviously not normal. I had been thinking of names, and my husband agreed that we could call him Benjamin. Benjamin was the son of Jacob. His mother died as the effect of his birth, and as she lay dying, she named him Ben-Oni, son of my sorrow. But Jacob renamed him Benjamin, son of my love, because that is what he thought of when he saw him. So it was for me, the sorrow of grief could not outdo the love I felt. My love for my children, living and lost, is the feeling I want to have dominance as I move forward, not sorrow.

After he came, my contractions started fizzling out. Clots came out, but not the placenta. We thought maybe, like last time, it had detached but not made its way out yet. My midwife checked manually. I pushed. We used herbs that usually help with placental detachment. More checking, more pushing, more pressure from the top to help try to find it, using a double breast pump and more herbs to get contractions starting, which had only slight effect... no placenta. My body had gotten tired from the work, and my vitals were good, so we considered that maybe my body needed to be taking that break. My flow was low, and after consulting with others and checking me, and giving me a list of reasons to go to the ER or call 911, my midwife left to go home and wait to hear from me again. She left me one of the herbs that can help bring on contractions when I was rested enough to try again. That night, my sister stayed with us to help me. At the end of the day, my contractions started coming back. I thought my body was ready to deal with the placenta now that it had rested. I went to bed, which is when things really picked up. I was actually having painful contractions again. I was passing clots. I laid there for an hour after bed to see if it would keep going. As I stood, the clots and a bunch of blood came rushing and I soaked a pad and felt dizzy. I knew that was not good, and I needed to keep alert. On the toilet, things would slow, but I checked each time, and no placenta, just clots, would come. I alternated back and forth between lying down and being on the toilet, now about every 20 minutes to keep better check on things. Being on the toilet would slow the flow but leave me dizzy a bit, lying down eased the dizziness but increased how much flow and clot built up. I went to the bathroom one last time, and was feeling dizzy and practically passed out even before I stood back up. I still had not clearly delivered the placenta, and knew until I did, this would continue, which was too much blood loss. So, I followed my intuition and the instructions my midwife gave me and I had my husband call 911. The EMTs showed up fairly quickly, and checked me. My blood pressure was low, but not terrifying, but because I was faint and borderline anemic and had lost a lot of blood, they said I made the right call. They put me into the ambulance and took me to the hospital, giving me fluid and taking blood samples on the way. They took more samples when we got there, apparently needing more than what was taken before. I ended up with a line in each arm, because of how much was going on and the possibility I would need a transfusion. They gave me a very unpleasant pelvic exam, and decided I would need a D&C. I had bled too much to just wait, and they were not sure what was going on with the placenta. They gave me morphine with Zofran for my pain, and got the OB on call to come see me. This was all in the very early hours of the morning. They started to get me ready for the OR, and the OB double checked with me that the baby had delivered already. Apparently there is a difference in the procedure and necessary training between a D&C and a D&E, which is what the procedure is when a baby over 16 weeks has to come out as well. She was not able to do a D&E, and I am pretty sure I know what happens to the baby then, so I was very relieved the baby had come naturally and this part could be handled without further complication. Before the OR, the anesthesiologist came to talk to me and answer any questions, and the nurses rolled me in. I made a comment about being a little afraid because I had never been under anesthesia before, and one of them said "It's like a good cocktail!" I replied I had never had a cocktail, and she came back with "We'll have to change that!", which made me laugh. They got me all set up, and the anesthesiologist said they had started the stuff, and then my memory was blank until I awoke.

I woke in recovery, feeling heavy headed and watery eyed, with stiff arms from the fluids, but no real pain. The anesthesiologist was there, and the OB there shortly after. In the first few minutes of being awake, they read Psalm 23 over the PA system, which was comforting. My procedure had gone well. The placenta and a good amount of clot had been removed. I did not end up needing a transfusion. I was anemic though upon arrival and they would recheck my levels before releasing me. I lay there with tears of gratitude and said a simple prayer in my heart, "You *are* my strength and my portion forever." The part about the valley of the shadow of death touched me. I realized that even with all the expenses we have had and will have because of my health this year, a mama who is alive and well is a better investment to my family than my student loans or a car loan would be. I would try not to be fearful of finance, but to be grateful that I lived. After a little while, they took me over to Short Stay, where my husband could join me again. I ate my crackers and drank my water and used the bathroom with no issue, so once they got the results of rechecking my iron numbers, took out the lines in my arms, and gave me discharge instructions and prescriptions, we were able to go. We ended up only getting the iron I was told to take, since my pain was fine and I had ibuprofen in lower dose at home. We stopped at Jamba Juice on the way home, at about 9:30am, and went home for much needed rest. My poor husband had been up all night after a busy day of work, and he actually napped even longer than I did. My mom came to join  my sister in helping so we could rest.

That day was Wednesday, which is when we usually go to a bible study with our church family. My parents took our boys to the class. While they were gone, I crocheted a sleep sack out of some of my handspun yarn to bury Benjamin in, and my husband prepared the hole. Since we knew ahead this time, we had already bought a rose for him, a pretty red rose. After last time, we knew we did not want to freeze him and wait until I was stronger to put him to rest. We also did not ever put him on a towel or paper towel, but wax paper, to help keep him from losing fluid. We put him in something in the refrigerator to preserve him until we were ready, which did not mess with how his flesh looked like freezing did to his brother. The morbid things you learn in these cases! But it was better this way. Saying goodbye to his body was the first chance I really had after all the intensity of those days to really cry for him. I grieved as I lay his body, so little and so big, into the sleep sack. We went out together, and I sat in the chair my husband had moved for me by the site. We laid him in the hole, and my husband prayed as I quietly wept. Then he buried Benjamin's body and planted the beautiful rose on top.

The support we have received has been truly amazing, both while we waited and after things happened. My general circle of friends and family has been really supportive and kind. My fiber arts friends gave me a shower of things to spin to keep me busy while I waited and now recover. My church friends have given flowers, cards, meals, visits, chocolate, and date money for when we can go out. My family has been ready to help with whatever as well, including my sister staying nights with us. Though I wish I did not have this happen to me, I have been placed in a circle of loving people, and am truly blessed in that.

Now is the time to heal, and to look for answers. We suspect something underlying in me, though what remains to be determined. Something that changed, as I went from two healthy pregnancies with healthy kids to two losses in a row. I pray we find answers and are spared future loss. I am determined to take good care of my body and use my life well in the meantime. I've signed up for a fun local 5k in October to give me something to work toward.

I'm having a hard time off and on emotionally. I'm sure my hormones are absolutely messed up right now. And being anemic means being tired. But I am leaning on my support network. And I love my husband, who, though tired from this being the busy season for his work, stayed up even later just to be with me and comfort me after a rough day. We will get through this together. But, if  you pray, please pray we find something, something fixable, and that we may have another live child join us someday.

1 comment:

  1. Good job, Little Mama. Hands on / fully felt grieving heals hearts. Your future is bright and you've much to look forward to. Writing it out helps. Xxox.

    ReplyDelete

May your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt. :)